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What is a Breach of Contract Under UK Law?

A breach of contract is the breaking of one or more of the terms and conditions of a contract.

Breaching the terms of a contract can lead to a complete breakdown of a professional relationship. In some cases, it can also result in legal action and claims for damages in court.

This could be contracts relating to;

Contract disputes can take a lot of time and cost a lot of money to resolve. They can even hamper your ability to fulfil other contracts, risking further litigation.


What Happens in a Breach of Contract Dispute?

Disputes occur when one party accuses another of breaking the terms of a contract. This often results in one party suffering one or more financial losses.

Breach of contract claims are expensive and time consuming to settle. As such, regardless of whether you are;

  1. The injured party, or
  2. Accused of breaching a contract,

We often recommend you do your best to reach an amicable solution.

Our expert contract lawyers can help you reach an outcome both sides are happy with.

Where both sides fail to agree on a solution, court might be the only option. If this is the case, our solicitors can help get a fair result in court.


Important Facts to Consider in a Breach of Contract Dispute

If you breach a contract, or if someone else has breached a contract you’re part of, we first need to establish:

The Existence of a Contract

In most cases, a contract does not have to be a written document. Verbal agreements can be as legally binding as a contract drafted by a solicitor.

Whether written or verbal, there are three elements which make a contract legally enforceable:

  1. There must be an agreement in place: One party must make an offer which the other party accepts.
  2. Intention: All parties must intend to fulfil their obligations under the agreement.
  3. Consideration: This is the exchange of something of value in return for a promise. This might be a payment in return for a promise to deliver goods or services.

The Terms of the Contract

To understand if you or someone else breached a contract, we must understand its terms. This is even more important when contracts are verbally agreed.

Terms can be ‘express’ or ‘implied’;

Express Terms

Express terms are specific terms agreed at the time of creating the contract. These could be;

  • Verbal
  • Form part of a written contract, or
  • Contained within other documents like a company’s standard terms and conditions

For example, a roofing company agree to replace a roof on a building for a fee of £10,000.

Implied Terms

Implied terms do not appear in a contract, but it is obvious the contract would be useless without it.

For example, a contract for the installation of a new roof might not have an express term that states that it must not leak. But this expectation would be implied in the contract.

The Breach

Having established;

  1. That a contact exists, and
  2. The terms of that contract

The next step is to understand if a breach has happened. In most cases this is obvious.

If one party fails to fulfil their obligations set out by a contract, then they are in breach.

In some cases, a breach might not have occurred, but it becomes obvious that it will. In this case, the other side needs to take steps to prevent the breach from happening or make other arrangements.

This is known as an ‘anticipatory breach’.

Simple suspicion of an anticipatory breach is not enough to bring about a claim. It must be undisputable.

For example, if an electrician agrees to;

  1. Re-wire a property
  2. For an agreed price
  3. By an agreed date

Then later informs you that they do it by the agreed date and it will now cost more, you can sue for the ‘non-performance’ of the contract.


The most common remedy for a breach of contract is damages, an amount of money awarded by the court. Its purpose is to put the injured party into the position they would have been if the breach had not occurred.

For damages to be awarded, the aggrieved party must;

  1. Prove that they have suffered losses, and
  2. Take steps to mitigate or reduce their losses

For example, if an employer’s breach of contract results in an employee losing their job, the employee must show that they have taken steps to find a new job. A tribunal would not accept an employee to stay unemployed and claiming damages.

The remedy for a breach of contract depends on the severity of the breach. For a minor breach, it is only possible to sue for damages. If the breach is serious, you could also recover the cost of correcting the breach.

A court will also consider an aspect called ‘remoteness’. They will only award damages for any losses which flowed from a breach of contract.

For example, if a roofing company installs a leaky roof which results in water damage, the claimant can also claim for the cost of having the water damaged fixed.

In most cases, the court will only award damages for financial losses. The stress and inconvenience of the victim is irrelevant.

The only caveat to this is if a contract were to promote enjoyment and/or happiness. This mostly applies to the sale of holidays and leisure activities.


What is the Limitation Period For a Breach of Contract?

In most cases, there is a six-year limitation period. This means a claimant must bring a claim within 6 years.

So, if you are the defendant in a claim, this means that a claimant cannot claim for something that happened more than six years ago.


Why use Rotheras for Breach of Contract Claims?

We will carefully consider the terms of the contract you entered to assess your rights and obligations. We can then advise you on the best course of action going forward.

We will assign a contract solicitor from in our Dispute Resolution team to your case. They have specialist experience in dealing with consumer contract claims and will look after you case from start to finish.

We will be honest and upfront about our fees from the start.

We encourage Alternative Dispute Resolution and mediation and will avoid court proceedings where possible.

We can work closely with our Debt Recovery team to help you claim losses incurred because of the breach of contract.

We can help you with:

  • Disputes over poor-quality workmanship
  • Faulty or defective goods
  • Unfair contract terms
  • Financial agreement disputes
  • Disputes over contracts for goods and/or services
  • Consumer Rights issues
  • Breach of a specific contractual term

Contact our Dispute Resolution Team

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Dispute Resolution Team
Richard Bates

Richard Bates

Richard Bates leads the Litigation and Dispute Resolution team at Rotheras. Richard is a litigation specialist and can provide a wide range of services to both commercial and private clients.

Richard Hammond

Richard Hammond

Richard Hammond is a Dispute Resolution specialist and mediator at Nottingham-based law firm Rotheras Solicitors. Richard is also a notary public, processing client documents for international use.

Grant Benskin

Grant Benskin

Grant Benskin is an Associate Solicitor Advocate in Rotheras’ Dispute Resolution team and is based at our Lace Market office in the heart of Nottingham city centre.

Paige Regardsoe

Paige Regardsoe

Paige Regardsoe is an Associate Solicitor in our Dispute Resolution department and is based at our Lace Market office.

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Sophie Price is a Trainee Solicitor currently in the Dispute Resolution department and is based in our Lace Market office.

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Abagail Clarke is a paralegal in Rotheras’ Dispute Resolution department and is based at our Lace Market office.

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George Cokkinos

George Cokkinos is a Paralegal in Rotheras’ Employment Law and Dispute Resolution departments and is based at our Lace Market office in the heart of Nottingham city centre.

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