Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart has recently given Judgment in the Technology and Construction Court, holding that a couple who built a house and lived in it as their main residence – albeit temporarily before selling the house – did not owe a duty under the Defective Premises Act 1972 (‘DPA’) when the house was later found to be defective and required demolition.

Section 1(1) of the DPA provides that:

A person taking on work for or in connection with the provision of a dwelling (whether the dwelling is provided by the erection of or by the conversion or enlargement of a building) owes a duty:

a) If the dwelling is provided to the order of any person, to that person; and

b) Without prejudice to (a) above, to every person who requires an interest (whether legal or equitable) in the dwelling;

To see that the work which he takes on is done in a workmanlike and/or professional manner, so that the dwelling will be fit for habitation when completed.

Section 1(4)(a) of the DPA provides:

A person who:
In the course of a business which consists of or includes providing or arranging for the provision of dwellings of installations in dwellings; or
Arranges for another to take on work for or in connection with the provision of a dwelling, shall be treated for the purposes of this section as included among the persons who have taken on the work.

The Court in this case held that the home owners were not property developers and that they had built the house as their “dream home”, only later deciding to put it on the market.

The Court has therefore confirmed that when deciding whether someone is acting “in the course of a business” under Section 1(4)(a):

1. It is not necessary that the person in question has developed other properties in the past; and

2. The relevant business must be in existence at the time the work is arranged. This means the DPA does not apply if the home owners decide to sell the property after the works are completed.

This case should give some comfort to home owners who redevelop their own properties, because as long as they can establish that at the time they entered into the building contract they intended to occupy it as their home for a period, then the DPA would not apply.

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