There have been many changes brought about by the Building Safety Act 2022 (“BSA”) to the way in which multi-occupancy buildings are occupied and constructed. One of the most newsworthy changes, though, relates to claims made in respect of historic building work. This article runs through, in brief, the changes to the Defective Premises Act 1972 (“DPA”) and the Building Act 1984 (“BA”) by the BSA. These changes came into force on 28 June 2022.
Previously, under section 1 of the DPA, the limitation period for claims that a property is unfit for habitation was six years from the date of completion of the works. The time limit could be extended if further work were carried out, but only in relation to that further work, from the date that further work was completed. Under section 135 of the BSA, for claims accruing before 28 June 2022, that 6-year limitation period will now be extended retrospectively to 30 years – this means claims which may previously have been out of time, now are not. For claims accruing after 28 June 2022, there will be a prospective 15-year limitation period.
The BSA also introduces new section 2A to the DPA. This new section extends the right to claim under the DPA for any work carried out to an existing dwelling (i.e. refurbishment) provided the works are done in the course of a business (i.e. not by an individual on their own or anyone else’s home). Claims under section 2A can only be made for claims that accrue after 28 June 2022 and will have a 15-year prospective limitation period.
The final amendment bought about by the BSA is the enactment of section 38 of the BA which is also stated within the BSA to come into force on 28 June 2022. This section is a general right to make a claim for damage caused by a breach of the Building Regulations giving a party the right to claim damages where they suffer harm because work on a building does not comply with the Building Regulations. This relates to any building in England and Wales, not just dwellings. This change will not have retrospective effect, but claims can be brought under section 38 for claims accruing after 28 June 2022 for 15 years.
Developers, contractors and consultants that are (or ever have been) part of a group of companies, should also be alert to Building Liability Orders (BLOs). If it is just and equitable to do so, the high court can make a BLO to extend liability to associated companies arising from the DPA, section 38 BA or other claim arising from a building safety risk. Parent and sister companies may therefore find themselves jointly liable for a claim against a group company, even where that group company has been dissolved.
If you have any queries relating to the new limitation periods, or liability generally, please contact our Building Safety team or, alternatively, Joe Brightman and Molly Frankham.