A construction contract often contains a clause that, in case of disputes, the Court of Arbitration for the Building Industry (RvA) in The Netherlands is solely competent. A Dutch construction lawyer can counsel you in submitting a dispute to the RvA. A number of widely used general terms and conditions also state that the RvA shall hear legal disputes arising from the agreement that the parties have entered into. The parties are also free to conclude that only when a dispute occurs to submit that dispute to the RvA. Some disputes are more suitable to be assessed by the RvA, whilst others are better suited for the court. For example, a fairly technical dispute can be better assessed by the RvA. In general, the court shall engage an expert if a technical matter is important for a legal ruling. The members of the RvA usually have a structural engineering background and mostly have adequate expertise in that field. They are assisted in the proceedings by a secretary (lawyer) who has expertise in construction (litigation) law.
Litigating at the RvA can be more expensive than court litigation. In court, court fees are paid at the beginning of the proceedings. At the RvA, the claimant has to pay a deposit. This deposit serves as security for the RvA that the costs incurred by the RvA can be paid and usually (partially) depends on the amount of the claim to be submitted. Another major difference is that the costs of legal assistance by a lawyer are compensated (to a higher amount) in proceedings at the RvA, than if the proceedings are conducted in court. It can therefore be advantageous for the (mostly) winning party to litigate at the RvA. Another difference is that no construction lawyer has to engaged for proceedings at the RvA, while in court this is required. If the claim is less than €25,000.= the claim can be brought at the sub district court and a construction lawyer is also not required.
If a ruling is pronounced by the court, this leads to a so-called ‘entitlement to enforcement’ that can be executed immediately at the request of the lawyer handling the case, for example by attaching assets of the sentenced party. This is different with an arbitration award. Often, problems occur if the sentenced party does not acquiesce to the award. In arbitration, the arbitrators decide. Of course the intention is that in this case as well the parties acquiesce to the award. If that is not the case, the lawyer of the winning party can apply to the ‘regular’ court to grant leave for execution of the arbitration award. If such an application is submitted, the court shall only pay attention to formal items, such as if both parties were heard, if the proceedings were conducted in accordance with the valid Arbitration Regulations and if the arbitrators were competent. The court shall therefore not reassess the content of the dispute.
The construction lawyers at law firm AMS Lawyers in Amsterdam are very experienced in advising and litigating in the area of property law, including construction arbitration. Our Dutch lawyers have gained a broad experience in advising and litigating for (international) companies and individuals. The attorneys are highly involved with their client’s interests and offer a sharp and transparent fee structure. Should you require more information on construction law in The Netherlands, or should you have any question with respect to litigation in The Netherlands, please feel free to contact one of the lawyers at our Dutch law firm in Amsterdam.