The Building Safety Bill and the proposed extended limitation period under the Defective Premises Act

The Building Safety Bill and the proposed extended limitation period under the Defective Premises Act

Author: Katie Hardie

Key Contact: Jennifer Butcher & Philip Graham

The Government’s long awaited Building Safety Bill (“the Bill”) was given Royal Assent on 28 April 2022. The Building Safety Act 2022 (“the BSA 2022” will bring about significant changes to the way in which residents and building owners can bring claims for defective works under the Defective Premises Act 1972 (“DPA).

One of the most talked about changes to be introduced by the BSA 2022 is in relation to limitation periods. One main problem faced by residents and building owners is that claims are often time-barred by the time defects come to light many years after practical completion has taken place. The BSA 2022 will address this issue by changing the limitation periods under the DPA as set out below.

Current position and the proposed changes

Under current legislation, a claim for compensation relating to defective work that has resulted in a dwelling being unfit for habitation must be brought within 6 years of the work being completed.

Through the BSA 2022 the period in which building owners, homeowners and leaseholders can make a claim for compensation following the completion of defective work will increase significantly. Claims brought under section 1 of the DPA will be extended as follows:

  • prospectively from 6 to 15 years (i.e., claims that arise after the BSA 2022 came into force); and
  • retrospectively from 6 to 30 years (for claims that arose before the BSA 2022 came into force).

This will mean that claims can be brought in respect of work that was completed up to 30 years prior to these provisions of the BSA 2022 coming into force.

As to work completed in the future, the type of work that falls within the DPA will be significantly expanded to include refurbishment works such as roof repairs, installing insulation and even fitting external cladding, all of which are not currently within scope. At present, only works for or in connection with the ‘provision’ of a dwelling are caught within the DPA, for example, building a new home or converting different types of property to a dwelling.

The BSA 2022 also introduces a new provision into the DPA widening the scope of the DPA to ‘any part of a building consisting of or containing one or more dwellings’ meaning that the common parts and exteriors of residential apartment blocks will be covered.

Defences to the extended limitation periods

However, (although unlikely given the nature of the claim will be relating to defects which could pose a risk to health and safety) it is possible that the following defences can be raised in response to retrospective claims:

  1. If the extended limitation period breaches the defendant’s rights under the Human Rights Act 1988; and
  2. If a claim has been settled previously, it cannot be revived.

Who can bring a claim?

Anyone with a legal or equitable interest in a dwelling may have a claim for compensation under the DPA, whether they are leaseholders or freeholders. There is also no longer a contractual relationship required under the DPA so subsequent buyers may have a claim for breach of contract, which they would not have otherwise been able to bring.

Conclusion

Whilst claimants will still need to prove that the defects which are the subject of the potential claim render the dwelling ‘unfit for habitation’ (which remains a high threshold to overcome), the extended limitation periods will no doubt be welcomed by residents and building owners, offering them the opportunity to bring a claim for compensation for defects in relation to their property which they might otherwise not have been able to do.

The new limitation periods will come into force two months after the BSA 2022 was passed (28 June 2022).

If you would like any further information, speak to our Litigation Team today.

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