During seismic events, the gravity loads may cause a reduction of the lateral stiffness of structures; inelastic deformations combined with horizontal loads (P-Δ effect) can bring to a state of dynamic instability that obviously influences building safety. Especially for flexible structures, the P-Δ effect amplifies structural deformations and resultants stresses, and thus may represent a source of sideway collapse. Since this type of collapse is the result of progressive accumulation of plastic deformation on structural components, the specific objective of this works is to study this effect on a three floor metallic frame (made of aluminium alloy). A non-linear finite element (FE) model of the frame has been developed to study the dynamic non-linear behaviour of the structure, and compare it with the experimental results obtained from a scaled model of the real structure. The FE model, where a simple isotropic hardening behaviour was assumed for the material, was not able to reproduce the real behaviour of the structure. Rather, the correct description of the cyclic plastic behaviour of the material was essential for the numerical analysis of the structure. The characterization of the non-linear behaviour of the material was made by cyclic tension–compression tests on material specimen, from which the coefficients of Chaboche's model were properly calibrated. In this way, the finite element model of the structure provided results in optimum agreement with the experimental ones, and was able to predict the lateral collapse very well.