Defective Premises – A House Buyer does not always have rights against a builder responsible for defects.

If you buy a house that turns out to be defective, under the Defective Premises Act of 1974 you might have a claim against the original builder. But in a new case the Court of Appeal has decided that if the builder refurbished a house, instead of building a new one, the Act does not apply.

The Act says that any person who takes on work for, or in connection with the provision of a dwelling, (including the erection, conversion or enlargement of a building), owes a duty to anyone who later acquires an interest in the dwelling, to see that the work he takes on is done in a workmanlike and professional manner.

In 2007, Mr. & Mrs. Jenson bought a house in Battersea from Mr. Green who, before selling it, had had substantial refurbishment work carried out. Mr. Faux was Mr. Green’s project manager responsible for the work which cost around £400,000. After they bought the house the basement flooded and the Jensons sued Mr. Faux for damages under the Defective Premises Act.

The Court of Appeal decided that Mr. Faux was not liable. Although there was a major revamp of the house, including some enlargement, they held that Mr. Faux was not responsible for ‘the provision of a dwelling”. What he did was improve an existing dwelling, not provide a new one.

So, beware of the risks if you buy a converted house: if it was previously an office building or warehouse, or if you buy a flat that has been created out of a larger house, you may have a claim against the original builder if defects appear. But if the dwelling you bought is just an improved version of the original, you need to get a survey before you buy, and the old rule of ‘caveat emptor’ or ‘let the buyer beware’ applies. For more details of this case –

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