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Novation and assignment
Changing the parties bound to a contract
What is novation, is novation a new contract, what is a deed of novation, why novation can be difficult, when do you use an assignment agreement to transfer a debt or obligation, transfer of a debt, transfer of service contracts.
Novation and assignment are ways for someone to transfer their interest in a contract to someone else.
Whilst the difference between assignment and novation is relatively small, it is an essential one. Assigning when you should novate could leave you in a position of being liable for your original contract when the other party is not liable to perform their obligations.
In contract law the principle of privity of contract means that only the parties to a contract have the obligation to fulfill it and the right to enforce it. Statute law has created a few exceptions but they apply rarely.
The legal concepts of novation and assignment have been developed to overcome the restrictions imposed by the doctrine.
Novation is a mechanism where one party transfers all its obligations and rights under a contract to a third party, with the consent of their original counter-party.
Novation in practice
Let us suppose Michael buys a car from Peter, owing him £5,000 as part of the sale price until Peter obtains a certifcate of authenticity.
Michael then sells the car to Fred under the same terms. Michael wants out, but has obligations to both parties.
Michael persuades Peter and Fred to enter into a novation agreement, signed by all three of them, whereby Fred takes over Michael’s obligations to Peter and Fred now deals with Peter in Michael’s place.
The seller of a business transfers the contracts with their customers and suppliers to the buyer. A novation process transfers each contract by the mutual agreement of all three parties.
A design and build contractor in the construction industry transfers a construction contract to a new, substitute contractor. A novation agreement is necessary.
A novation agreement is a new contract that 'extinguishes' the old one.
Because it is a new contract, there can be new terms within it, giving additional rights and obligations.
There are times when and why you should use a deed explains exactly when you need to use one. Novation is not among them.
A Deed of Novation is a relic from long ago when lawyers were even more inclined to cloak their knowledge in obscurity.
One of the main purposes in using the deed format is that it provides the necessity for an unconnected witness to sign the document. So it is that much more difficult for one of the parties to say it was forged or signed a year later than the date shown.
But in a novation, there are at least three parties by definition; three parties who are most unlikely to be connected and each of whom has their separate interest. So you can be pretty sure the agreement has not been tampered with. A witness cannot improve on that. So you do not need a deed.
Another reason to use a deed could be when there is no 'consideration', that is when one of the original contracting parties receives no benefit - monetary or otherwise - in return fot the novation. However, in commercial circumstances you could nearly always argue that there is an advantage to each of the parties. The extinction of the old contract or subjectively more favourable terms within the new contract would both count as fair consideration.
Do you need a deed of novation for your situation? The answer is usually no, as an agreement is fine.
The exception to the rule is that if the original contract was signed as a deed, you need to use a deed to novate it. Real property transaction are by deed. That includes a consent to assign a lease, which has three parties. There are special reasons for that.
There are other examples too, which are more obscure.
When a contract is novated, the other (original) contracting party must be left in the same position as they were in prior to the novation being made.
Novation requires the agreement of all three parties. While obtaining the agreement of the transferor and transferee is easy, obtaining the agreement of the other original party can be more difficult:
The other original party may not understand the benefit to them of having the original contract novated and require extra information about the process that is time consuming to provide.
They may need extra assurance to be persuaded that they won’t be worse off as a result of the novation (especially common where there is a transfer of service contracts between suppliers).
It is possible that they could play up to delay the transfer and squeeze extra concessions from you.
The only way to transfer your rights or obligations is by an agreement signed by all three parties.
But what happens if you are a service provider selling your business with tens of thousands of customers? You can hardly ask every one of them to sign up to their own separate novation.
In practice, a well drawn original agreement will contain a provision which permits the service provider to assign (transfer its contract) without the permission of the customer.
But what happens if it does not?
In practice what happens is that the buyer 'takes a flyer'. The deal is done in the hope that the customers stay with the new owner.
Maybe the buyer obtains an indemnity from the seller to cover their loss if many leave. Maybe the buyer will write to the customers to encourage them to stay. Maybe the customers simply make the next payment and thereby confirm acceptance in law.
In each of those cases, the acquirer will be safe because the customers remain (or become) bound to the terms of the original contract.
Net Lawman offers an assignment agreement to cover that exact situation, together with a draft letter of the sort that might convince customers to stay with the new owner.
The other situation in which assignment is used is where the new party trusts the original party assigning the contract. For example, a subsidiary company may assign contractual obligations to a parent company confident that the parent will uphold the contract.
A construction company is a subsidary in a group. It is working in partnership with another business on several projects to build houses. The other business is a minor partner in the deal. The partnership has run out of money and the smaller partner is unable to inject any more funds. The parent business is unwilling to have its subsidiary fund the remainder of the projects by itself.
A solution may be for the parent to pay both its subsidiary and the third party for the construction contracts to be assigned to it (in other words, buy the contractual rights from the partnership). The assignment provisions would give the parent the obligation to finish the project, which it may be able to do without the third party.
Assignment transfers benefits only
Even if the assignee promises to take on the liability of the assignor to the third parties, the assignor remains personally liable if they fail to do so. An obligation to a third party cannot be assigned without their consent.
When assignment can invalidate your contract
Terms in an original contract can restrict or prohibit assignments. This is particularly common in construction contracts but can apply in any agreement. If you attempt to assign a contract that cannot be assigned, you risk invalidating the original contract.
Personal obligations and assignment
Be particularly careful of an assignment if your obligations can only be performed personally. A good example would be sale of a hair dressing business. Quite apart from the risk of the clients leaving, the actual forward appointments could be interpreted as contracts with the seller, even though they would have no way to fulfill them because they have sold the business.
Buying the right document
Very generally, if you are unsure whether you should assign or novate, we recommend that you novate and obtain consent of all parties. We offer a number of novation and assignment agreement templates for different situations.
For example: You borrow from a lender and you later want to transfer the debt to someone else (maybe a friend, a business partner or a the buyer of your business) so that they become liable to repay the lender instead of you. In this situation you should use an agreement that novates the debt .
This is a common consideration when a business is sold and outstanding debts of the business are transferred to the new owner (perhaps loans of money but maybe also loans of goods for sale).
Alternatively, you could novate in order to change who should pay back a personal loan between individuals.
Transfer of a right to receive the repayment of a debt
For example: You make a loan to someone (it could be money or goods) and later you want to change who receives the repayment (an agreement to change who the creditor is ).
The transaction might relate to the sale of a business where the buyer takes on the assets of the seller (the loans to other parties), or when factoring debt.
For example: You provide a service to someone and you want to transfer the obligation of providing that service to another person or company.
Again, a common use for a service contract novation agreement is where a business is sold and the buyer takes on the service contracts of the seller. The service could be in any industry, from a fixed period gardening contract to an on-going IT or website maintenance. Novation changes who is providing the service.
Transfer of an architectural or building contract
For example: You buy a building or property development that is still under construction and you want the existing contractor to continue work despite the original contract being between the contractor and the seller.
In this situation you should use a novation agreement for a building contract .
Our standard assignment agreement can be used for most assignments (exceptions given below). It is not specific to circumstances.
Assignment of a business lease
If you wish to transfer a commercial property lease to another business tenant during the fixed term, Net Lawman offers an agreement to assign a lease .
We have an article specifically about assigning a business lease that may be useful further reading.
It is not advisable to assign a residential tenancy agreement. We would suggest that you cancel the original agreement and draw up a new agreement with the new tenants.
Assignment of copyright
We have number of assignment agreements for intellectual property rights .
They are effectively sale or transfer agreements where some rights are retained by the seller (such as to buyback the assigned work, or for the work only to be used in certain locations).
They relate to IP in media (such as a film or a music score) and to inventions.
Assignment of a life insurance policy or endowment policy
These agreements allows you to transfer the rights to receive payments from a life insurance policy or endowment policy. We offer both a deed of assignment of a policy on separation or divorce and a deed of assignment to gift or sell the policy to someone else .
Assignment and collateral warranties in the construction industry
Probably the most common use of assignment in the construction industry today is in relation to collateral warranties.
The collateral warranties given by consultants, contractors and sub-contractors in construction contracts are often assigned to subsequent owners or leases. Assignment can do no more than transfer rights available to the assignor. It is not capable of creating new rights and obligations in favour of an assignee.
So while the client can, in theory, assign the right to have a building adequately designed, it is unclear what right would be transferred to sue for damages in the event of breach. If the developer (who would usually be the assignor) has sold the building or created a full-repairing lease, then their right would be to nominal damages only. This is one situation where you should definitely use a deed of novation.
UK: Contracts: The Critical Difference Between Assignment and Novation
An assignment of rights under a contract is normally restricted to the benefit of the contract. Where a party wishes to transfer both the benefit and burden of the contract this generally needs to be done by way of a novation. The distinction between assignment and novation was addressed recently in the case of Davies v Jones (2009), whereby the court considered whether a deed of assignment of the rights under a contract could also transfer a positive contractual obligation, which in this instance included the obligation to pay.
Mr Jones (the first defendant) contracted to sell Lidl (the second defendant) a freehold property (the "Lidl Contract"). At that time, the freehold was vested in the claimants as trustees of a retired benefit scheme. Mr Jones contracted to buy the land from the claimants (the " Trustee Contract") and assigned his right, title and interest to the Trustee Contract to Lidl by way of a deed of assignment.
Clause 18 of the Trustee Contract permitted Mr Jones, as purchaser, to retain £100,000 from the purchase monies payable to the claimants until the outstanding works (ground clearance and site preparation) had been completed. Following completion of the works Mr Jones was entitled to retain one half of the proper costs from the retention and release the balance to the claimants. There was a similar clause in the Lidl Contract, which allowed Lidl to retain the proper costs from the retention. Importantly, although similar, under the Lidl Contract Lidl was entitled to retain the whole cost of carrying out the works as against only half in the Trustee Contract.
Lidl retained the sum of £100,000 from the money due by Mr Jones to the claimants on completion of the contract. Once the works were completed Mr Jones failed to pay the claimant the retention monies claiming that the proper cost of the works was over £200,000.
The claimants argued that the benefits granted by way of the assignment were conditional on Lidl performing Mr Jones' obligations under the Trustee Contract. Therefore, the question considered by the court was whether Lidl was bound to observe the terms of the Trustee Contract and in particular clause 18, given that benefit of the contract had been assigned to them.
The court held that the benefit which passed to Lidl by way of the deed of assignment did not require Lidl to perform the obligations of Mr Jones under the Trustee Contract. The assignment did not impose any burden on Lidl. The only person who clause 18 of the Trustee Contract was binding on was Mr Jones. The transfer to Lidl could not impose on Lidl the obligation to perform Mr Jones' obligations and these therefore remained with Mr Jones. This reaffirms the principle that when you take an assignment of a contract, you don't take on the burden (except in limited circumstances where enjoyment of the benefit is conditional on complying with some formality). Therefore, if an owner assigns a building contract to a purchaser of land and the building is still under construction, the obligation to pay the contractor remains with the original owner and does not pass to the new owner.
Assignment and novation in the Construction Industry
Both assignment and novation are common within the construction industry and careful consideration is required as to which mechanism is suitable. Assignments are frequently used in relation to collateral warranties, whereby the benefit of a contract is transferred to a third party. Likewise, an assignment of rights to a third party with an interest in a project may be suitable when the Employer still needs to fulfil certain obligations under the contract, for example, where works are still in progress. A novation is appropriate where the original contracting party wants the obligations under the contract to rest with a third party. This is commonly seen in a design and build scenario whereby the Employer novates the consultants' contracts to the Contractor, so that the benefit and burden of the appointments are transferred, and the Employer benefits from a single point of responsibility in the form of the Contractor.
If the intention is that the assignee is to accept both the benefit and burden of a contract, it is not normally sufficient to rely on a deed of assignment, as the burden of the contract remains with the assignor. In these instances a novation would be a preferable method of transferring obligations, and this allows for both the benefit and burden to be transferred to the new party and leaves no residual liability with the transferor.
Reference: Davies v Jones  EWCA Civ 1164 .
This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to www.law-now.com/law-now/mondaq
Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.
The original publication date for this article was 07/06/2010.
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Casting light on novation and assignment
Anyone working in the construction sector is likely to have encountered the terms "assignment" and "novation". An assignment is a transfer of an interest from one party to another. So, for example, if A enters into a contract with B, A may generally assign the benefit (but not the burden) of that contract to C. In this context, "benefit" and "burden" refer to the two aspects of any contractual relationship. If I offer to build a house for you for £500,000, the benefit of the contract to me is to receive the money. The burden is building the house. For you, the benefit of the contract is receiving the house and the burden is paying me the money. That is perhaps a slightly over simplistic example but gives the general idea. The other thing to note is that the benefit usually includes both accrued and future contractual rights. It is possible to assign only future or only accrued rights, but clear words are needed to do so.
Novation is also the transfer of an interest from one party to another. Unlike assignment, however, novation transfers both the benefit and the burden of a contract. For that reason novation requires the consent of all the parties whereas in the example I have given above an assignment can be carried out without B's consent. Again in simplistic terms, novation operates to swap one contract between A and B with another contract between A and C.
Although these mechanisms are commonly used in construction contracts, they are relatively rarely considered by the Courts in detail, which makes the recent decision in Energy Works (Hull) Limited v MW High Tech Projects UK Limited and Others  EWHC 2537 (TCC) so interesting. In this case, the employer, Energy Works (EWHL) had entered into a contract with MW High Tech (MW) to design, procure, construct, commission and test a power plant. The contract was in the form of the IChemE Red Book, as amended. MW then entered into a subcontract with Outotec (USA) Inc (Outotec) to supply certain elements of the plant and used the IChemE Yellow Book subcontract form. Outotec also provided a collateral warranty to EWHL which entitled EWHL to step into the subcontract if the main contract was terminated. In addition, both the main contract and the subcontract entitled EWHL to require that the Outotec subcontract was assigned to it if the main contract was terminated. Both the main contract and the subcontract simply required MW to "assign the subcontract" and did not expressly refer to assigning the benefit of the subcontract or whether this included accrued and future rights.
For reasons we do not need to go into here, the project ran into difficulty and EWHL terminated the main contract. EWHL considered stepping into the subcontract but did not. MW did however assign the subcontract to EWHL.
EWHL commenced proceedings against MW claiming damages for losses arising out of the termination and defects in the works. MW added Outotec as a Part 20 Defendant alleging that the losses claimed by EWHL arose from Outotec's breach of the subcontract.
The court was asked to look at a number of preliminary issues one of which was the question of whether EWHL retained the benefit of accrued rights against Outotec or, if not, whether the assignment transferred both the benefit and the burden of the subcontract or alternatively took effect as a novation. This gave the court the opportunity to review the principles around assignment and novation in some detail and it is well worth a look at the judgment as a very thorough and illuminating review of the principles in this area. On the facts, the judge reached the conclusion that MW's accrued and future rights had been assigned to EWHL. In the circumstances, there had therefore been no novation.
Whilst the judgment applies well established principles in relation to assignment and novation, the implications are worth considering in the context of the sort of complex contractual arrangements that the parties entered into here, which are by no means unusual. There is no doubt that MW did not anticipate that the net effect of the assignment would strip MW of any recourse it had against Outotec, effectively preventing MW from recovering from Outotec the losses which Outotec may well have been responsible for in the first place. It is difficult to see how this could be avoided in the future. Employers commonly insist upon as many routes to recovery as possible in the event that things do not go according to plan. Consequently, suggesting, for example, that assignment be limited to future rights only or restricted in some other way so as to offer the contractor some protection may not be attractive to employers and their funders. In addition, EWHL was unable to agree step-in arrangements with Outotec, demonstrating precisely why such alternative routes to recovery are necessary. This case may well therefore be simply an object lesson in the law of unintended consequences rather than a warning to adopt a different strategy in such complex contractual arrangements in the future.
First published on Building, 26 October 2020
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Assignment and Novation: Spot the Difference 12 November 2020
- EPC Contract
- Power Plant
- Transfer of rights
The English Technology and Construction Court has found that the assignment of a sub-contract from a main contractor to an employer upon termination of an EPC contract will, in the absence of express intention to the contrary, transfer both accrued and future contractual benefits.
In doing so, Mrs Justice O’Farrell has emphasised established principles on assignment and novation, and the clear conceptual distinction between them. While this decision affirms existing authority, it also highlights the inherent risks for construction contractors in step-in assignment arrangements.
"This decision shows the court’s desire to give effect to clear contractual provisions, particularly in complex construction contracts, even where doing so puts a party in a difficult position."
This preliminary issues judgment in the matter of Energy Works (Hull) Ltd v MW High Tech Projects UK Ltd & Others¹ , is the latest in a long series of decisions surrounding the Energy Works plant, a fluidised bed gasification energy-from-waste power plant in Hull². The defendant, MW High Tech Projects UK Ltd (“MW”), was engaged as the main contractor by the claimant and employer, Energy Works (Hull) Ltd (“EWHL”), under an EPC contract entered into in November 2015. Through a sub-contract, MW engaged Outotec (USA) Inc (“Outotec”) to supply key elements for the construction of the plant.
By March 2019, issues had arisen with the project. EWHL terminated the main contract for contractor default and, pursuant to a term in the EPC contract, asked MW to assign to it MW’s sub-contract with Outotec. The sub-contract permitted assignment, but MW and EWHL were unable to agree a deed of assignment. Ultimately, MW wrote to EWHL and Outotec, notifying them both that it was assigning the sub-contract to EWHL. EWHL subsequently brought £133m proceedings against MW, seeking compensation for the cost of defects and delay in completion of the works. The defendant disputed the grounds of the termination, denied EWHL’s claims, and sought to pass on any liability to Outotec through an additional claim under the sub-contract. Outotec disputed MW’s entitlement to bring the additional claim on the grounds that MW no longer had any rights under the sub-contract, because those rights had been assigned to EWHL.
The parties accepted that a valid transfer in respect of the sub-contract had taken place. However, MW maintained that the assignment only transferred future rights under the sub-contract and that all accrued rights – which would include the right to sue Outotec for any failure to perform in accordance with the sub-contract occurring prior to the assignment – remained with MW. In the alternative, MW argued that the transfer had been intended as a novation such that all rights and liabilities had been transferred. As a secondary point, MW also claimed eligibility for a contribution from Outotec under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 for their alleged partial liability³.
An assignment is a transfer of a right from one party to another. Usually this is the transfer by one party of its rights and remedies, under a contract with a counterparty, to a third party. However, importantly, the assignor remains liable for any obligations it owes under the contract. As an example, Party A can assign to Party C its right to receive goods under a contract with Party B, but it will remain liable to pay Party B for those goods. Section 136 of the Law of Property Act 1926 requires a valid statutory assignment to be absolute, in writing, and on notice to the contractual counterparty.
"In the absence of any clear contrary intention, reference to assignment of the contract by parties is understood to mean assignment of the benefit, that is, accrued and future rights."
In this case, the precise scope of the transferred rights and the purported assignment of contractual obligations were in issue. Mrs Justice O’Farrell looked to the House of Lords’ decision in Linden Gardens⁴ to set out three relevant principles on assignment:
- Subject to any express contractual restrictions, a party to a contract can assign the benefit of a contract, but not the burden, without the consent of the other party to the contract;
- In the absence of any clear contrary intention, reference to assignment of the contract by parties is understood to mean assignment of the benefit, that is, accrued and future rights; and
- It is possible to assign only future rights under a contract (i.e. so that the assignor retains any rights which have already accrued at the date of the assignment), but clear words are needed to give effect to such an intention.
Hence, in relation to MW’s first argument, it is theoretically possible to separate future and accrued rights for assignment, but this can only be achieved through “careful and intricate drafting, spelling out the parties’ intentions”. The judge held that, since such wording was absent here, MW had transferred all its rights, both accrued and future, to EWHL, including its right to sue Outotec.
Whereas assignment only transfers a party’s rights under a contract, novation transfers both a party’s rights and its obligations . Strictly speaking, the original contract is extinguished and a new one formed between the incoming party and the remaining party to the original contract. This new contract has the same terms as the original, unless expressly agreed otherwise by the parties.
Another key difference from assignment is that novation requires the consent of all parties involved, i.e. the transferring party, the counterparty, and the incoming party. With assignment, the transferring party is only required to notify its counterparty of the assignment. Consent to a novation can be given when the original contract is first entered into. However, when giving consent to a future novation, the parties must be clear what the terms of the new contract will be.
"Mrs Justice O’Farrell stressed that “it is a matter for the parties to determine the basis on which they allocate risk within the contractual matrix.”"
A novation need not be in writing. However, the desire to show that all parties have given the required consent, the use of deeds of novation to avoid questions of consideration, and the use of novation to transfer ‘key’ contracts, particularly in asset purchase transactions, means that they often do take written form. A properly drafted novation agreement will usually make clear whether the outgoing party remains responsible for liabilities accrued prior to the transfer, or whether these become the incoming party’s problem.
As with any contractual agreement, the words used by the parties are key. Mrs Justice O’Farrell found that the use of the words “assign the sub-contract” were a strong indication that in this case the transfer was intended to be an assignment, and not a novation.
This decision reaffirms the established principles of assignment and novation and the distinction between them. It also shows the court’s desire to give effect to clear contractual provisions, particularly in complex construction contracts, even where doing so puts a party in a difficult position. Here, it was found that MW had transferred away its right to pursue Outotec for damages under the sub-contract, but MW remained liable to EWHL under the EPC contract. As a result, EWHL had the right to pursue either or both of MW and Outotec for losses arising from defects in the Outotec equipment, but where it chose to pursue only MW, MW had no contractual means of recovering from Outotec any sums it had to pay to EWHL. Mrs Justice O’Farrell stressed that “it is a matter for the parties to determine the basis on which they allocate risk within the contractual matrix.” A contractor in MW’s position can still seek from a sub-contractor a contribution in respect of its liability to the employer under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 (as the judge confirmed MW was entitled to do in this case). However, the wording of the Act is very specific, and it may not always be possible to pass down a contractual chain all, or any, of a party’s liability.
Commercially, contractors often assume some risk of liability to the employer without the prospect of recovery from a sub-contractor, such as where the sub-contractor becomes insolvent, or where the sub-contract for some reason cannot be negotiated and agreed on back-to-back terms with the EPC contract. However, contractors need to consider carefully the ramifications of provisions allowing the transfer of sub-contracts to parties further up a contractual chain and take steps to ensure such provisions reflect any agreement as to the allocation of risk on a project.
This article was authored by London Dispute Resolution Co-Head and Partner Rebecca Williams , Senior Associate Mark McAllister-Jones and Gerard Rhodes , a trainee solicitor in the London office.
  EWHC 2537 (TCC)
 See, for example, the decisions in Premier Engineering (Lincoln) Ltd v MW High Tech Projects UK Ltd  EWHC 2484, reported in our article here , Engie Fabricom (UK) Ltd v MW High Tech Projects UK Ltd  EWHC 1626 (TCC) and C Spencer Limited v MW High Tech Projects UK Limited  EWCA Civ 331, reported in our article here .
 The Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 allows that “ any person liable in respect of any damage suffered by another person may recover contribution from any other person liable in respect of the same damage whether jointly with him or otherwise .”
 Linden Gardens Trust Ltd v Lenesta Sludge Disposals Ltd  1 AC 85
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What Are Assignment and Novation Clauses in a Loan Agreement?
By Jake Rickman
Updated on 12 September 2022 Reading time: 5 minutes
This article meets our strict editorial principles. Our lawyers, experienced writers and legally trained editorial team put every effort into ensuring the information published on our website is accurate. We encourage you to seek independent legal advice. Learn more .
- What Are Novation and Assignment?
Novation and Assignment in Practice
- What Assignment Means for Your Business
- Key Takeaways
Frequently Asked Questions
If you get to the final stage of a business loan application, the bank will present you with a loan agreement . While some terms in the loan agreement may be familiar, others might be vaguer. For example, the lender’s right to ‘assign or transfer all its rights and obligations by novation’. This article will explain what novation and assignment mean in your loan agreement, how it operates, and how this impacts your business.
What Are Novation and Assignment?
Novation is a legal process that transfers rights and obligations under a contract to a third party with both parties’ consent.
On the other hand, assignment is the right to transfer the contractual obligations of one party to a third party, regardless of whether the other party to the contract consents.
To understand how novation and assignment apply to your loan agreement and how these rights might ultimately affect your business, it is important to consider novation and assignment in practice.
The law does not easily release parties from their contractual obligations. Otherwise, contracts would not have much legal effect. For example, after your business signs a loan agreement, you cannot simply notify the bank that another person or company will make the loan repayments on your business’s behalf. Likewise, unless the contract states otherwise, the bank must make the loan money available to your business and cannot rely on another party to do so on its behalf.
Hence, the bank may rely on clauses in the loan agreement to release them from their obligations. Consider the following example.
Bank A provides your company with a revolving credit facility of up to £1m. However, a year goes by, and you have not drawn on the facility. Consequently, Bank A may no longer want to honour its contractual obligation to your company.
However, Bank A cannot just transfer the loan without your approval. Hence, if you consent to Bank A’s request to sell the loan to Bank B, the law calls this novation. This means that you are essentially creating a new loan contract with Bank B. After novation, the original party, Bank A, disappears.
Even if you are not prepared to consent to Bank A’s request, it may still want to transfer the loan. Where the loan agreement contains an assignment clause, Bank A may nevertheless transfer its rights to benefit from your business’ repayment to Bank B. The law calls this an assignment.
What Assignment Means for Your Business
Provided a bank has notified your business in writing that it intends to transfer its rights to a named third party, you are obligated to make payments to the new bank.
If the bank does not specify the third party’s identity, your obligations do not change.
You should also know that the bank your business initiated the loan agreement with is still obligated to provide you with any money it has promised. If it does not, you may have a legal claim against the bank.
Assignment and novation in a loan agreement refer to a lender’s ability to transfer its loan obligations to a third party. If the bank sells the benefit under the loan agreement (i.e. your loan repayments) to another party, this is called an assignment. If the bank notifies you that it has assigned its rights to a third party, you must direct repayments to the third party provided it informs you of the third party’s identity. The bank can also ask you to release it from its obligations to make money available to your business. This is called novation. However, if you do not consent, the bank must continue to honour any terms in the initial loan agreement.
If you need help understanding your loan agreement, our experienced business lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. You will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents for a low monthly fee. So call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page .
An assignment in a loan agreement is where the bank sells its rights to receive your loan repayments to another lender. Provided you are properly notified, you must direct any future payments to the third party. Notably, an assignment does not release a bank from any obligations it owes you.
A novation is where the borrower consents to the lender’s request to transfer the lender’s rights and obligations under a loan agreement to a third party lender. The effect is that you will now owe your obligations under the loan agreement to the third party. In turn, the new lender carries out the initial lender’s obligations. You can enforce these obligations against the new lender.
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Commercial Update 96 – Assignment vs Novation
Following a question from a client, this week’s update focuses on the old distinction between what assigning and novating a contract means.
Assignment is the transfer of the benefit of a contract from one party to another. This means that an original party to a contract (assignor) can transfer their right to the benefit of said contract to a new party (assignee). However, assignment only transfers the benefits of a contract not the burden.
Assignment is beneficial as it allows an assignor to transfer the benefits of a contract without having to create an entirely new contract meaning it saves time. Additionally, assignment has a far simpler process than a novation. Furthermore, it allows for greater business flexibility, as companies can easily transfer their contracts to sub-contractors.
Novation is however, a means of transferring one party’s rights and obligations under a contract to a third party.
Unlike assignment, novation transfers both the benefit and the burden of a contract.
How does his work? Well, a novation in effect then extinguishes the existing contract and substitutes it with a new one under which a third party (incoming party) agrees to perform the outstanding obligations of the outgoing party. The incoming party is therefore directly liable to the continuing party for performance of the contract.
All parties to the original contract (the outgoing and continuing parties) and the incoming party must consent to the novation in order for it to be considered valid. This can be an issue where the continuing party is reluctant to agree to novation, for example, where the incoming party is of inferior financial standing to that of the outgoing party.
The novation agreement usually releases the outgoing party from any future liabilities arising under the contract being novated but if silent on this point, these liabilities will generally stay with the outgoing party.
In essence then, please remember that contractual obligations (as opposed to rights) cannot be transferred through assignment and can only be transferred by novation. Assignments then may not always be suitable so it is important to carefully consider which should be used based on the circumstances.
Regards to all
Assignment vs Novation: Everything You Need to Know
Assignment vs. novation: What's the difference? An assignment agreement transfers one party's rights and obligations under a contract to another party. 4 min read
Assignment vs. novation: What's the difference? An assignment agreement transfers one party's rights and obligations under a contract to another party. The party transferring their rights and duties is the assignor; the party receiving them is the assignee. Novation is a mechanism where one party transfers all its obligations and rights under a contract to a third party, with the consent of the original counterparty.
The transfer of a benefit or interest from one party to another is referred to as an assignment. While the benefits can be transferred, the obligation or burden behind the contract cannot be. A contract assignment occurs when a party assigns their contractual rights to a third party. The benefit that the issuing party would have received from the contract is now assigned to the third party. The party appointing their rights is referred to as the assignor, while the party obtaining the rights is the assignee.
The assignor continues to carry the burden and can be held liable by the assignee for failing to fulfill their duties under the contract. Purchasing an indemnity clause from the assignee may help protect the assignor from a future liability. Unlike notation, assignment contracts do not annul the initial agreement and do not establish a new agreement. The original or initial contract continues to be enforced.
Assignment contracts generally do not require the authorization from all parties in the agreement. Based on the terms, the assignor will most likely only need to notify the nonassigning party.
In regards to a contract being assignable, if an agreement seems silent or unclear, courts have decided that the contract is typically assignable. However, this does not apply to personal service contracts where consent is mandatory. The Supreme Court of Canada , or SCC, has determined that a personal service contract must be created for the original parties based on the special characteristics, skills, or confidences that are uniquely displayed between them. Many times, the courts need to intervene to determine whether an agreement is indeed a personal service contract.
Overall, assignment is more convenient for the assignor than novation. The assignor is not required to ask for approval from a third party in order to assign their interest in an agreement to the assignee. The assignor should be aware of the potential liability risk if the assignee doesn't perform their duties as stated in the assigned contract.
Novation has the potential to limit future liabilities to an assignor, but it also is usually more burdensome for the parties involved. Additionally, it's not always achievable if a third party refuses to give consent.
It's essential for the two parties in an agreement to appraise their relationship before transitioning to novation. An assignment is preferential for parties that would like to continue performing their obligations, but also transition some of their rights to another party.
A novation occurs when a party would like to transfer both the benefits and the burden within a contract to another party. Similar to assignment, the benefits are transferred, but unlike assignment, the burden is also transferred. When a novation is completed, the original contract is deleted and is replaced with a new one. In this new contract, a third party is now responsible for the obligations and rights. Generally, novation does not cancel any past obligations or rights under the initial contract, although it is possible to novate these as well.
Novation needs to be approved by both parties of the original contract and the new joining third party. Some amount of consideration must also be provided in the new contract in order for it to be novated, unless the novation is cited in a deed that is signed by all parties to the contract. In this situation, consideration is referring to something of value that is being gained through the contract.
Novation occurs when the purchaser to the original agreement is attempting to replace the seller of an original contract. Once novated, the original seller is released from any obligation under the initial contract. The SCC has established a three-point test to implement novation. The asserting party must prove:
- The purchaser accepts complete liability
- The creditor to the original contract accepts the purchaser as the official debtor, and not simply as a guarantor or agent of the seller
- The creditor to the original contract accepts the new contract as the replacement for the old one
Also, the SSC insisted that if a new agreement doesn't exist, the court would not find novation unless the precedence was unusually compelling.
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- Contract Transfer
- Novation Agreement
- What is Novation of Contract
- Novation of Contract
- Contract Novation Letter
- Deed of Novation
- Contract Novation
- Loan Novation Agreement
- Assignment of Rights Example
- Contract Novation Agreement
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- 13 March 2018
- Commercial Real Estate
Novation and Assignment: Sisters, Not Twins
There’s often, understandably, a bit of uncertainty about whether (and how) a party to a contract can “assign” (transfer) its rights, or pass on its obligations, under that contract, to another person.
In law, the general rule is that only the original parties to the contract can discharge or fulfil the obligations and enforce the rights created under it and nobody else gets a look in. This is called “privity of contract”.
Essentially, novation and assignment are both mechanisms to get around this restriction. However, while the end result is the same, there are some important differences between these two mechanisms.
Under an assignment, one party (the assignor) keeps performing their obligations under the contract, but transfers some or all rights to a third party (the assignee). The parties to the contract remain the same so privity of contract is preserved.
Assignments can be legal or equitable. In order for an assignment to be a legal assignment, the assignment must be agreed in writing, signed by the assignor, and the other party to the contract must be given notice of the assignment. A legal assignment is usually preferable as this allows the assignee to enforce the rights in their own name directly.
If the assignment is an equitable assignment because it does not fit the criteria for a legal assignment (for example, the other party was not given notice of it), the assignee will need to get the assignor to enforce the assigned rights on its behalf.
Contracts often require the consent of the other party before any assignment can take place. Some contracts expressly prohibit assignment. However, even where there is such wording in the contract, there is nothing stopping you from asking the party to consent to the assignment anyway, though you should take care to record any agreement in writing.
The main point to remember is that you cannot assign obligations under a contract to another party – you can only assign your benefits or rights. Even if the assignee agrees that they will take on the obligations under the contract, it is still the assignor who remains responsible for performance of the obligations and liable if they are not. In practice, what often happens is that the assignee does take over the performance of the contractual obligations but simply agrees to indemnify the assignor for any failures in performance.
It is also important to note that some rights may not be legally capable of assignment.
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When you novate a contract, the original contract effectively ceases to exist and is replaced with a new contract. The new contract contains exactly the same rights and obligations as the original contract, except that it substitutes one of the original parties (the outgoing party) with a third party (the incoming party).
As you are creating a new contract, technically you need to provide fresh consideration. Usually a simple novation agreement between all the parties will be enough, but, if there is any doubt, the parties may choose to execute the novation as a deed instead, which dispenses with the need for consideration.
The novation agreement (or deed) will specify what happens to the liabilities under the original contract. In a typical novation, the outgoing party would be released from all liabilities and the incoming party would inherit these. However, this is up to the parties to decide; they could even decide that the outgoing party will remain liable for all of the liabilities under the original contract.
Novating the contract will release the outgoing party from any future obligations which may arise. This is a crucial difference between novation and assignment.
Although the novation agreement itself can be simple, the process of getting all the parties to the table to agree and execute might be more complex. The main issue for an outgoing party will be persuading the other original party to sign. The other original party often has concerns about service continuity and may want certain assurances or information about the incoming third party.
Equally, the other original party is not obliged to agree: they can refuse to novate and then sue for breach if the party trying to exit the contract fails to meet its contractual obligations. As they still have this other option, in any novation scenario, the outgoing party is probably in a weaker bargaining position, and the other original party may well use this to their advantage.
About this article
- Subject Novation and Assignment: Sisters, Not Twins
- Author Stephen James
- Expertise Commercial Real Estate
- Published 13 March 2018
Disclaimer This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.
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Assignment in construction
Assignment is the transfer of a right or an interest vested in one party (the ‘assignor’) to another party (the ‘assignee’). A valid assignment will entitle the assignee to demand performance of a contractual obligation. Only rights (the ‘benefit’ of a contract) can be transferred by assignment—the parties will need to enter into a novation agreement if obligations under the contract (the ‘burdens’) are intended to be transferred.
Assignments often arise in the context of a construction project where a party to a construction contract, collateral warranty or consultant's appointment wants to assign the benefit under that contract to a third party, such as a purchaser or tenant of a building. Banks and other funders will also frequently take an assignment of the benefit of a suite of construction documents in respect of a development, as an additional part of the security package for their loan to finance the development. A bank will want to acquire the benefit of such documents, in order to be able to assume the position of the employer
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