What is a Contract Variation?

A contract variation refers to any change or alteration made to the original terms of an agreement. In construction, this can mean adding, modifying, decreasing, or omitting certain tasks, materials, or specifications. It is a tool to adapt to unforeseen challenges or new requirements, ensuring the project’s smooth progression.

Reasons for Contract Variation

Contract variations arise for various reasons. They can stem from unexpected site conditions, evolving client preferences, regulatory requirements, or design alterations. Whether it’s adapting to hidden ground conditions, complying with new regulations, or accommodating a client’s revised vision, variations ensure the project remains feasible and aligned with current needs.

The Process of Contract Variation

Initiating a contract variation typically begins with identifying the need for change. Once recognised, it’s formalised through written instructions or updated plans. Both parties must agree and sign the written variation, ensuring clarity and mutual understanding. The variation then becomes part of the contract, with costs and timelines adjusted accordingly, ensuring transparency and fairness throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Clause 14 of the MBA Contract BC4

The MBA Contract BC4 (NSW) provides specific guidelines on variations. Clause 14 of this contract delves into how works may be varied, the process for variation approvals, and the calculation for costs. This ensures that both builders and owners have a clear roadmap for any contractual changes.

Quantum Meruit in the Context of MBA Contract BC4

The MBA Contract BC4, tailored for NSW’s construction landscape, offers specific provisions that intersect with quantum meruit claims. While the contract emphasises written variations, real-world scenarios often see deviations. When variations are not formally documented, builders might find themselves in a position where they have undertaken extra work without a clear payment pathway. Here, quantum meruit comes into play, ensuring builders are not left uncompensated. However, the BC4’s clauses, especially Clause 14, set the stage for how variations are handled, making it imperative for builders to understand both the contract’s nuances and the broader principles of quantum meruit.

What is Quantum Meruit?

Quantum meruit, translating to “what one has earned”, is a legal principle ensuring fair compensation for services rendered outside a contract’s scope. In construction, it is used when builders seek payment for additional work not covered in the original agreement, ensuring no party benefits unjustly at another’s expense.

Conditions for a Successful Quantum Meruit Claim

The cases of Nayak v Rockwall Constructions Pty Ltd [2017] NSWCATAP 18 and Durastyle Homes Pty Ltd v Gosling; Gosling v Durastyle Homes Pty Ltd [2022] NSWCATCD 106 are pivotal in understanding quantum meruit claims in NSW. For a quantum meruit claim to be successful, certain conditions must be met. Builders must demonstrate that:

  1. Scope of Work: The work performed was beyond the original contract’s stipulations.
  1. Owner’s Awareness: The homeowner had knowledge of the variation as it was executed.
  1. Contractual Boundaries: The homeowner knew that this work was outside the agreed contract.
  1. Payment Expectation: The homeowner was aware that the builder anticipated compensation for this additional work.
  1. Fair Value: The builder can provide evidence that the amount claimed for such work is fair value.

Meeting these conditions provide a robust foundation for a quantum meruit claim.

Understanding Fair Value in Quantum Meruit Claims

Fair value refers to the reasonable and just compensation that a builder is entitled to receive for the additional work they’ve undertaken outside the original contract. It takes into account various factors, including the nature and extent of the work, prevailing industry rates, and the actual value the work brings to the project.

Determining fair value isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It involves a comprehensive assessment of the work’s intricacies. Builders must demonstrate that the amount they’re claiming accurately reflects the value they’ve added to the project. This often requires presenting evidence, such as industry benchmarks, expert opinions, and documentation of the work’s impact on the project’s overall success.

 Builders should be prepared to present their case backed by solid evidence while also being open to discussions and resolutions that benefit both parties.

Seeking Legal Advice

Engaging a construction lawyer with expertise in quantum meruit claims can be critical to your success. They not only understand the legal intricacies but can also assist in accurately determining fair value. With their guidance, builders can navigate negotiations confidently, ensuring their work’s true worth is recognised and compensated justly.

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Assessing Fair Value in Quantum Meruit Claims Builder's Guide (MBA Contract BC4)


Navigating the intricacies of construction contracts, especially in the realm of quantum meruit claims and variations, requires a deep understanding and a keen eye for detail. While the MBA Contract BC4 offers a robust framework, real-world scenarios often present challenges that go beyond the written word.

For builders keen on safeguarding their rights and ensuring fair compensation, seeking legal advice is important. As a solicitor and construction lawyer with over a decade of specialisation in construction law, I’ve been at the forefront of advising and representing both homeowners and builders in NSW’s tribunals and courts. My expertise spans a broad spectrum of construction contractual rights, risks, and obligations, which include Quantum Meruit Claims and variations under the MBA Contract BC4.

If you’re a builder seeking clarity or looking to strengthen your contractual position, reach out to me, and let’s ensure your work is valued justly and your rights are protected.