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Construction Law Today

About This Blog and About Substantial Completion

Posted in Completion

How this blog works. The idea is simple: We’re in a friendly pub sharing a round of beer and talking about construction law. As we talk, you have questions. And I answer them here in this blog talking like an ordinary and reasonably educated person, not a lawyer – straight and to the point, without the technical jargon and esoteric legalese.

Imagine turning to me and saying, “Hey, Josh, I’m going to hire a contractor to build a movie theatre for me. “Substantial completion” is really important isn’t it? But what does that really mean? And I need to make sure my contract identifies when the work is substantially complete. Right? How do I do that?”

I don’t reply with a filibuster about Section 9.8 of the 2007 edition of the American Institute of Architects’s A201 General Conditions of the Contract For Construction or any of that stuff you can read in nearly any book about construction law (nearly any book – it really is in just about every one). Instead, I turn to you and say something like…..


Substantially complete means that the project is complete to the point where you can use it. It’s not all the way complete; there’s still some minor and cosmetic work to do. But even though that’s not finished yet, you can still move-in and do the things you need to do to operate a theatre and make money doing it – show movies, serve food and beverages to your customers, and ensure they have convenient places to park and go to the restroom.

So you’ll want to define substantial completion in your contract. And you’ll want your definition to say something like:

The Work will be substantially complete when the last of each of the following occurs:

  • The Work is finished so the Owner (that’s you) can use the Work for its intended purpose as a movie theatre open to the public (e.g., showing motion pictures, selling food and beverages, providing customer parking and restroom facilities).
  • The Work finished so far complies with the other terms of the contract and with the architect’s plans.
  • The Owner receives the original, or a certified copy, of all permits and approvals needed to occupy or use the Work for its intended purpose (e.g., Certificate of Occupancy).

We meet about once a week. We’re relaxed. We talk about the tips and the techniques I’ve observed from my own work, and working with, and against, some of the top professionals who represent architects, engineers, contractors, and owners. But I give it to you in plain and direct English, just like I would to a friend over a beer.

  • Peggy

    My comments fall into several categories. Most important of course: content. You definitely write in the style that you intend to achieve. It reads as authoritative without being so complex as to go over the heads of those outside your field. You frequently write in an engaging conversational tone. The question and answer approach is particularly good. The Substantial Completion post is a great example of this. The brevity of each post with a “link to read more” keeps the main page clean. The bullets further that. I linked to a lot of the other blogs via your site as a point of comparison. Many of them had a cluttered and/or verbose style. Next is related…the overall visual impact. The neutral background and consistent use of black type overall and blue type for links creates a professional but not overly formal image. The graphic you created at the top of the blog is great in that it evokes both fluidity and strength. Oh and finally, when reading the Consequential Damages post the use of the Mandarin signs is genius. It makes your point abundantly clear. Well done!

  • Allen

    I found an attorney who speaks FDIC. Awesome.

  • Bob Campbell

    In Arizona public law related to substantial completion of a wasteware treatment plant, is there a requirement that retention be released in x number of days after issuing the Notice of Substantial Completion? If so, and there are quite a few items remaining on the punch list, can you take beneficial occupancy and delay substantial completion until the list is small enough that you can see the end?

  • http://www.puritanfinancial.com/ James Morgan – Puritan Financial Advisor

    The idea is simple: We’re in a friendly pub sharing a round of beer and talking about construction law.