Completion: quite what it is or when it happens, continues to be a tricky issue.  Different contracts define, or at least attempt to define, completion in different ways, it happens at different times or at different stages of the project, sometimes partially, and is governed by different procedures for confirming whether or not it can happen, should happen and/or when it did happen.  All rather confusing.  However a recent case in the TCC may, in a small way, shed some light on the issue. 

In O'Rourke Construction Ltd v Healthcare Support (Newcastle) Ltd and others [2014] EWHC 2595 (TCC) the claimant contractor submitted that the completion certificate ought to have been issued when the works were in compliance with the completion criteria.  Straightforward you may think, but an independent tester had refused to grant the certificate as measured against this criteria.  The defendant trust submitted that any breach as to quality or conformity of works required that tester to withhold the certificate.  A dispute arose as to the correct interpretation of the completion terms. 

The court found in favour of the claimant contractor.  On the true construction of the contracts, if the tester reasonably considered that a departure from the criteria had not had and would not have a material adverse impact on the trusts enjoyment and use of the buildings for the purposes anticipated by the contract, then it could conclude that the criteria had been met.  It was contrary to business efficacy and commercial common sense that a technical or minor breach could or should prevent completion. 

It is clear that, as a matter of contract certainty, completion criteria needs to be clearly set out.  Perhaps as quick guide ask:  what is expected to achieve completion?  What are the allowances or tolerances on those criteria?  And, communicate to resolve any concerns or ambiguities as soon as possible.