Damages may be awarded for a delay in completion under an open contract even though time was not of the essence. The failure to complete on the day fixed was a breach. Lord Edmund-Davies said: ‘The fact that time had not been declared to be of the essence does not mean that the express date for completion could be supplanted by the court’s treating it as a mere ‘target’ date and, in effect, enabling the defaulting party to insert into the contractual provision some such words as or within a reasonable time thereafter”. Nevertheless, the innocent party must do all he reasonably can to reduce his losses.
Lord Fraser of Tullybelton explained the decision in United Scientific: ‘The actual decision in the United Scientific Holdings case  AC 904 depended upon treating the fact that strict adherence to the timetable was not of the essence of the contract as equivalent to its not being a condition precedent to enforcing the rent review clause. No doubt that may mean that the law has developed somewhat since the Act of 1873, as indeed Lord Diplock had stressed earlier in his speech, but it did not involve approval for the proposition that failure to adhere to the timetable was not a breach of the contract.’
Lord Edmund-Davies, Lord Fraser of Tullybelton
 AC 1050,  2 All ER 145
England and Wales
Cited – United Scientific Holdings v Burnley Borough Council HL 1978
The House was asked whether a failure by a lessor to keep strictly to the timetable laid down in a rent review clause in a lease necessarily deprived the lessor of the benefit of the rent review.
Held: A stipulation as to time in an option . .
Cited – Riverside Housing Association Ltd v White and Another HL 25-Apr-2007
The claimant housing association had raised its rents. The tenants objected that they were unlawful not having complied with the tenancy agreements. They said the clause allowed only one increase in each June of a year, and then only if 28 days . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.219187