Deciding when practical completion is achieved can be difficult. After the basement of an office building was flooded the date of practical completion of the sprinkler subcontract works became crucial. If the flood occurred before that date, the main contractor had no claim against the subcontractor. And, just to complicate the issue, there were competing definitions of practical completion.

The definition that applied, according to the court, in the JCT-based subcontract, required the subcontractor to notify the main contractor, when, in its opinion, the subcontract works were practically complete. If the contractor did not dissent in writing, with reasons, in 14 days of receipt of the notice, practical completion was deemed to have taken place on that date. The court ruled that the subcontractor had given a valid notice of the practical completion date and, as the contractor had not dissented, practical completion took place on that date. It was irrelevant whether or not the subcontract works were practically complete on that date. The purpose of this clause was to achieve contractual certainty. If the main contractor wanted to dispute the date notified it must do so within the time limit or lose its right to do so later. It was also irrelevant, under the subcontract, where a notice had been served and not disputed, whether or not the subcontractor had sufficiently complied with its obligations to provide as built drawings and health and safety information. Which meant that the flood had occurred after practical completion.

GB Building Solutions Ltd v SFS Fire Services Ltd (t/a Central Fire Protection) [2017] EWHC 1289