The article in your September issue entitled “What’s in a name?” by Paul Jackson (page 43) was not only very interesting but should ring alarm bells for many services contractors.

There is, however, at least one important point not mentioned, and that is that a main contractor when tendering, or even after being awarded a contract, is not obliged to accept a “uniquely identified, or even specified, specialist subcontractor”.

Sadly, there are many instances where a specialist, having worked very closely with the design team and spent monies in doing so, discovers that a main contractor finds another subcontractor who is willing to undertake the works for a lower sum (not having previously spent any money) and thus the “intended” specialist then loses out.

Even if the specialist is awarded the contract, Mr Jackson correctly points out that the specialist will become nothing more than a domestic subcontractor, like a plasterer or carpenter.

In that situation the specialist often finds themselves in a worse situation, as they will be expected to use their considerable expertise, whereas the other trade subcontractors are merely expected to perform to the provided design.

Also, often the main contractor will try to reduce the specialists’ tendered sum before actually awarding the contract and, in that situation, the organisation that “uniquely identified” the specialist will not be of any help.

A specialist who is responsible for part of the design should be very careful to clearly set out in the tender exactly the extent of design responsibility that will be accepted.

It might be useful to include some wording such as, “in the works to be undertaken by us if our tender is acceptable, we have and will continue to rely totally on the design provided to us”.

That may not please the organisation wishing to uniquely identify the specialist, but could save the specialist a lot of money and/or avoid disputes.

Mr Jackson makes the point to be careful as to when materials are considered “fully and finally fixed”, which leads on to the use by the main contractor of part or all of the specialists’ works, such as the permanent lighting or heating.

This should only be allowed by the specialist if they are in possession of a Certificate of Practical Completion of that section or, as an absolute minimum, a written agreement from the main contractor to meet all consequential costs, such as re-lamping lighting or draining down a heating system.

All in all, being the preferred services specialist can sometimes place the contractor in a worse situation than a straightforward domestic tenderer to a main contractor. Ideally it is best to seek work direct from an employer, but it is recognised that this is often not possible in volume.

In any case it would always be wise to keep precontract costs to a minimum.

Edgar H Ring, Edgware, Middlesex