Latent defects
Latent defects

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

  • Latent defects
  • What are latent defects?
  • What is the effect of distinguishing between patent and latent defects?
  • Limitation periods
  • Latent defects insurance
  • Final accounts and settlement agreements

Technically, a defect in a finished product is a breach of contract. However, it is widely accepted that defects will occur and manifest themselves on construction projects both during and after the works have been carried out, and most contracts will often provide for any such breach to be rectified during the defects liability period (also known as the rectification period). During this time it is envisaged that the contractor will rectify defects which have become apparent since practical completion (these are generally considered patent defects). For more information on both practical completion and defects liability periods please refer to the respective Practice Notes: What is practical completion? and Defects liability period and rectification of defects.

For consideration of what a defect is, see Practice Note: Defects claims in construction—What is a defect?

What are latent defects?

In order to establish what a latent (or inherent) defect is, it is important to understand what a patent defect is. The distinction affects the extent of the contractor's liability.

A patent defect is one which is detectable either at practical completion or during the defects liability period or equivalent. While a defect may be unseen or latent to a casual observer, it may be visible or patent to a qualified construction person. An objective approach needs to be adopted. If a defect is capable of being discovered by a skilled

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