If you are a builder or professional involved in the construction of new houses then you will owe a contractual duty to the person who engages you. However, your duties may extend beyond your contractual liability to the original owner.
The Defective Premises Act 1972 (the DPA) introduces a statutory obligation on builders and consultants to ensure that new houses are built correctly. It offers protection to every person who acquires an interest in a new house, which means that it applies equally to those who are not the first owner. This means that for a period of up to 6 years from completion, the owner of a property can make a claim against a builder or professional even though they had no contract with that person.
The Defective Premises Act requires that work related to the construction of a house is carried out in a workmanlike or professional manner, with proper materials, and to see that the completed dwelling is fit for habitation.
The Act is far reaching. The duty to carry out the work properly relates to any person taking on work for or in connection with the provision of a dwelling. This means that it applies to a contractor or property developer, but also applies to architects, structural engineers and other professional consultants. The fitness for habitation test is fairly wide-reaching and does not mean that the property has to be un-inhabitable.
Bearing in mind that a purchaser of a house has little or no rights against the seller if a defect is found, the DPA gives the owner a lifeline to try and recover the cost of any remedial work required. The DPA is therefore an important piece of legislation for homeowners, particularly where they are not the original owner, and any builder or consultant who involved in the construction of new houses should be aware of it.