Defects claims in construction
Defects claims in construction

The following Construction guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Defects claims in construction
  • What is a defect?
  • Types of defects claims
  • Causation and burden of proof
  • Rights and remedies
  • Limitation periods
  • Contractual or agreed limits on liability

Defects are a common issue on construction projects. Minor defects or patent defects (ie those which are apparent upon inspection) can often be dealt with during the project or shortly afterwards, but there may also be serious defects, whether in the design or construction, which can threaten the structural integrity of the works.

This Practice Note considers how disputes over defects typically arise in construction projects and the potential bases of defects claims—eg breach of a building contract or consultant’s appointment, tort (negligence), third party and collateral warranty claims, recovery under a latent defects insurance policy or other guarantee scheme and claims under the Defective Premises Act 1972 (DPA 1972). It also looks issues relating to the burden of proof and causation, as well as the remedies commonly sought by claimants in defects disputes.

What is a defect?

There is no standard definition of what constitutes a defect. Generally speaking, a defect is a deficiency in the design or construction of a building or structure, resulting from a failure to design or construct the works in

  1. a reasonable and workmanlike manner and/or

  2. in accordance with a contractual provision or specification

In the context of employment legislation, the court has defined a defect as ‘a lack or absence of something essential to completeness' (Tate v Latham & Son (1876) 1 QB 502 (not