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Ask the team: what is a snagging list and how should it be used?

We recently received a number of queries about parties’ rights and obligations relating to a snagging list. While all the queries related to JCT forms of contract, in practice the term “snagging list” is used in a variety of situations and can mean different things to different people. For example, a straw poll of PLC editors revealed three possible interpretations.

Common usage

Snagging list has no universally agreed meaning. It is not referred to at all in the JCT suite of contracts, but practical experience indicates that it is regularly applied to:

  • A contract administrator’s (or employer’s agent’s) pre-completion list of outstanding work, which is shared with the building contractor to clarify what work remains outstanding before practical completion will be certified. For example, this is the context of the snagging lists referred to in Walter Lilly & Company Ltd v Giles Patrick Cyril Mackay and another [2012] EWHC 1773 (TCC). This type of list is common in the latter stages of a construction project.
  • A list of de minimis (very minor) items of work that are left over at practical completion. Although not expressly provided for in JCT contracts, the courts have long recognised a contract administrator’s power to certify practical completion subject to de minimis items (see HW Neville (Sunblest) Ltd v William Press and Son Ltd (1981) 20 BLR 78). However, because the JCT contracts do not expressly refer to such a list, many practitioners regard it as best practice to allow for such a list in an amendment to a JCT contract. For example, see clause 2.36A of PLC Construction’s Standard document, Schedule of amendments to JCT Design and Build Contract, 2011 edition.
  • Non-de minimis items of outstanding work identified at practical completion and listed in an appendix to the certificate of practical completion. This envisages a list issued at, or immediately after, practical completion. Using a snagging list in this way is inconsistent with the JCT contract mechansim, but that conflict could be overcome by bespoke amendments. For example, the amendment in PLC’s standard document, referred to above, could assist the parties.
  • Non-de minimis items of outstanding work identified in a list that is issued some time after practical completion (and may or may not overlap with defects identified during the rectification period). The JCT contracts do not provide for this type of snagging list and it is very difficult to draft bespoke amendments governing its operation. This is because it is unclear how this type of list ties in with the parties’ contractual rights and obligations under an unamended JCT contract, particularly in relation to defects, the rectification period, retention monies or liquidated damages. After practical completion, it is best practice to use the JCT contract’s defects liability (or rectification) process.

Why does it matter?

The JCT contracts do not refer expressly to snagging lists. This means that a contract administrator that issues a snagging list under an unamended JCT contract is stepping outside the recognised contractual mechanism. However, as already explained, there is no real difficulty with a list of pre-completion items or a list of de minimis items outstanding at completion (the first two examples listed above).

In contrast, unless the parties have amended the JCT contract, there is no legal certainty about how a court would interpret the effect of a snagging list of non-de minimis items issued on or after practical completion (the final two examples listed above). As already explained, bespoke amendments can cater for a list issued on completion, but a list that is issued or amended later should be avoided.

What should you do?

Snagging lists are a fact of life and often make commercial sense to the parties to a building contract. At their best, they provide a sound means of communication between the parties and the contract administrator at the end of the works, facilitating an orderly transition between the construction of a building and its final use. Rather than regarding a snagging list as an abuse of the contractual process, a lawyer negotiating a building contract should address the issue head on, by:

  • Never assuming that the parties have a shared understanding of the term “snagging list” or its contractual effect.
  • Taking steps to establish whether a snagging list will be used on a project by raising the issue with the parties and the contract administrator at an early stage. If there is a chance that a snagging list of non-de minimis items will be issued on completion, the lawyer should consider inserting express contract terms dealing with its effect. However, parties should avoid using that type of list if it will be issued or amended after practical completion, instead of using or adapting the JCT contract’s defects retification procedures.

These simple steps can safeguard against significant problems further down the line.

8 thoughts on “Ask the team: what is a snagging list and how should it be used?

    1. Thanks for making contact Julia. Unfortunately we don’t have any experience of apps that are used for snagging. A snagging list would usually be compiled by the construction team rather than lawyers. Perhaps other readers can help.

      1. Hi Yassir, thank you for getting back. I will be checking the comments if something shows up.

        Regards, Julia

        1. Hello Julia,

          We would recommend Site Report Pro – its perfect for creating and managing your snagging list. Its available for both iPhone and iPad and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store
          It has many powerful features such as photo mark-up, multiple photos per issue, sharing and assignment, professional PDF reports, tagging and much more.

  1. Hi,

    Hoping you may be able to advise on this.

    I’ve just exchanged contracts on a new build property. I will be using an external company to complete a snagging survey on my behalf. The house builder is saying this can only be done after completion. Do you know if this is accurate?

    Many thanks.

    1. As we say at the start of this post, “the term ‘snagging list’ is used in a variety of situations and can mean different things to different people”.

      That may well be the case in your situation. You may be both referring to different things. For example, you may be referring to the items of work that you would like finished before you complete on the property (in the property sense), while the builder may be referring to the sort of items that are often identified by a contract administrator before the building works reach practical completion (in a construction context).

      We explain the legal position above. Neither approach is wrong (or right), unless there are express contractual terms to the contrary.

      I suspect that, in practice, the builder is trying to avoid giving you or your surveyor access to the property before you complete on the sale, since he will want as much time as possible to complete his building works.

  2. Hi! Thank you for this valuable information on snag lists.

    Here is an article that explains in simple words what a snag list or punch list actually is:

    A construction punch list (or snag list) is a list of items that need to be completed to comply with the terms of the contract and is prepared when the construction project reaches the final stage. Contractor and customer (or customer’s representative like architect or inspection professional) do a walk-through on the job site, thinking about the terms of the contract, and note down all deficiencies that need to be solved.

    Typically the final payment by the customer towards the contractor is tied to completing the items on the list. The money owed to the contractor that is paid out upon completion of the list is often referred to as the ‘retainage’ and varies between 2% and 10% of the total contract value. This ensures the contractors don’t turn in the keys before the project is finished (finished meaning “compliant with the contract”). Most contracts also include timing specifications ensuring that the work will be done in timely matter. As the contract is always the reference, it helps to clearly spell out expectations in the contract before the work begins.

    Summary: The punch list is the instrument that is used to make sure the job gets finished successfully (compliant with the contract terms), and in a timely matter. It does so by clearly stating WHO needs to do WHAT (task + location) by WHEN.

    I agree that Apps can be a huge benefit and time saver when snagging. In this article you can find more about using an App for snagging, along with other useful tips for making snagging successful:

    I hope this helps! Jerry

  3. Hi there,

    Thanks for the article.

    In a situation with a new build property, where the snagging items are to be completed prior to completion, is there a Standard Clause on plc to allow for the Seller’s Surveyor to inspect the Property once the snagging items are rectified pre-completion?

    Many thanks

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