Home owners non-contractual remedies for property defects
Home owners non-contractual remedies for property defects

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

  • Home owners non-contractual remedies for property defects
  • Common law—implied terms
  • Tort
  • Pure economic loss—the assumption of responsibility
  • Complex structures
  • Statutory obligations

Common law—implied terms

Reasonable care and skill

Where a purchaser buys a house from a builder:

  1. in the course of construction, or

  2. who contracts to build it

common law implies a term that the builder will do his work in a good and workmanlike manner. There is also a term implied that the builder will supply good and proper materials.

Fit for human habitation

Common law also implies a term that the house will be reasonably fit for human habitation. Liability extends to bad design, not just poor materials or workmanship. The Court of Appeal held that the term applied where a purchaser bought a house from a builder when it was complete apart from decorations, certain fittings and plastering in one room.

Subject to the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA 1977), under which liability can only be excluded if reasonable, the implied terms can be displaced by the express terms of the contract. However, they will not be displaced simply because a house is built in accordance with agreed plans, specifications and with specified materials.


A duty to exercise reasonable care and skill also arises in tort. The limitation period is more generous than for a claim in contract. Broadly speaking, in contract, limitation runs from the date of the breach, whereas in tort it runs from