In these unprecedented times, Axiom Stone Solicitors will, in common with other businesses, be following the Government's official advice on social distancing and social isolating.

Public health measures must have the highest priority and, as a result, some staff will be working from home. Also, our offices will be closed to visitors.

However, we wish to reassure existing and potential clients that we will continue to provide the highest levels of service.

Please be assured we have a robust business continuity plan in place that is designed to minimise the impact on our service to you.

In addition, please continue to contact us electronically or by phone in relation to the progress of your matters or on any issues of concern to you.

Until further notice, service of claim forms, application notices and all other court documents and contractual notices must be made to our head office only (we shall not accept service through any other means). Our head office address is at Axiom Stone Solicitors, Axiom House, 1 Spring Villa Road, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 7EB. We ask that all other correspondence be sent by email to the relevant member of Axiom Stone Solicitors. In the event that service of court documents or contractual notices is attempted by post, courier, DX, or fax to any address other than that of our Head Office, we cannot provide any assurance that they will be received or processed. We are grateful for your understanding at this time.

We will update this information regularly on our website (Please see COVID-19 Updates Here) and via social media.

Finally, we urge everybody to follow the official advice on fighting the virus outbreak so enabling you to stay safe and well.

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COVID-19: Contractual behaviour

Kulzhan Mehrabi on the UK Government’s guidance on acting responsibly in the crisis

On 7 May 2020, the Cabinet Office published guidance on what was generally expected of businesses acting responsibly and fairly as they manage and enforce their contracts during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Responsible and fair behaviour includes:

  • Being reasonable and proportionate in responding to performance issues and enforcing contracts (including dealing with any disputes)
  • Acting in a spirit of cooperation and
  • Aiming to achieve practical, just and equitable contractual outcomes having regard to the impact on the other party (or parties), the availability of financial resources, the protection of public health and the national interest

In particular, responsible and fair behaviour is strongly encouraged in relation to the following:

  • Requesting, and giving, relief for impaired performance
  • Requesting, and allowing, extensions of time, substitute or alternative performance and compensation
  • Making, and responding to, force majeure, frustration, change in law, relief event, delay event, compensation event and excusing cause claims
  • Requesting, and making, payment under the contract
  • Making, and responding to, claims for damages, including under liquidated damages provisions
  • Returning deposits or part payments
  • Exercising remedies in respect of impaired performance, including enforcement of security, forfeiture or repossession of property, calling of bonds or guarantees or the initiation or continuation of insolvency or winding up (or equivalent) proceedings
  • Claiming breach of contract and enforcing events of default and termination provisions
  • Making, and responding to, requests for information and data under the contract
  • Giving notices, keeping records and providing reports under the contract
  • Making, and responding to, requests for contract changes and variations
  • Making, and responding to, requests for consents
  • Commencing, and continuing, formal dispute resolution procedures, including proceedings in court
  • Requesting, and responding to, requests for mediation or other alternative or fast-track dispute resolution
  • Enforcing judgments.

The responsible and fair behaviour described should apply in circumstances where COVID-19 materially affects the relevant contract.

To some, the Cabinet Office document may be seen as the UK Government discouraging parties from actively seeking performance of their contracts due to the COVID emergency. Whilst these provisions are not mandatory and do not reflect the current position of English law with the fundamental principle of freedom of contract and contractual certainty, it is not clear how this guidance will work in practice and impact party behaviour given that it expressly states that it is not intended to usurp contractual rights or remedies available at law.

We have yet to see how the courts would respond should a default party to the contract raise this guidance as an argument in its defence.

Kulzhan Mehrabi – Associate Solicitor

COVID-19 is undoubtedly the biggest crisis in modern history. This is an extremely fast-moving situation and businesses and individuals are facing unprecedented challenges. The key question is how to protect ourselves and our businesses in this crisis. If you have any questions about the legal issues you and your business are currently facing due to the Covid-19, please get in touch. We are committed to helping you and your business with your legal concerns during this challenging time”

 


 

The remarks in this article should not be taken to be legal advice. We recommend that before you take any steps, speak to one of our Dispute Resolution specialists to identify the best course of action open to you. For further information, please contact Kulzhan Mehrabi, Associate Solicitor, on 0203 827 6130 or email to kum@axiomstone.co.uk