With the arrival of inflation come concerns regarding increases in the price of building materials within the construction industry. Contractors, subcontractors and others who contract to perform construction work can suffer significant losses when the prices they must pay for materials rises significantly between the time they sign the contract and actually purchase the materials. The general rule is that, unless there exists a contract clause allowing contractors or subcontractors to pass significant price increases for materials on to others, contractors and subcontractors are stuck with the price stated in the contract or subcontract. When prices rise, the contractor or subcontractor eats the difference. Rising prices can thus turn a profitable project into a catastrophic failure. How are contractors and subcontractors to protect themselves?
Once a contract is executed, there is usually little that can be done to change the document to address rising prices. Effort must therefore turn to future protection. The best technique for dealing with increasing future prices for building materials is by adding a price escalation clause to contracts and subcontracts. While this will not help for past contracts or subcontracts, it can certainly offer significant protection going forward.