The background to this topic is that commercial and often residential buildings are rarely constructed for the sole use of the employer under the construction contract. The employer may, for example, be a building developer, a public body, a speculative builder or housing co-operative. For this reason, allocating responsibility for latent defects that occur post-completion is of major importance when selling or leasing the completed building or development. How long should a building last? At the heart of the problem of post-completion liabilities in England is the resolution of this question. What if, after completion, the building should fail in some way? Who should be responsible for the costs of making good those defects? There are a number of problems that stand in the way: 1 The caveat emptor rule – let the purchaser beware. For the sale of goods, this rule has been abolished. A purchaser of a defective commercial building is subject to the rule and normally has no rights against the seller. It has to have the building surveyed to reassure itself that there are no hidden defects in it. Rights do exist for dwelling houses under the Defective Premises Act 1972. Section 1(1) provides that a person taking on work for, or in connection with, the provision of a dwelling owes a duty to the person ordering the work and to any person acquiring an interest in the dwelling. The duty is to see that the work is done in a workmanlike or ‘professional manner’, with proper materials, and that the house should be fit for human habitation: see Chapter 6. Note that JCT 11 in clause 2.19.2 limits liability for the design of the contractor under the Act to that of a professional.
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