The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 55 (1977) > Issues > Issue 9 > Liability for Defective Buildings. A Lawyer's Look at a Case of Significance to the Construction Ind
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Liability for Defective Buildings. A Lawyer's Look at a Case of Significance to the Construction Industry

Defects in the foundations of a building may only begin to show themselves after the passage of several years and prima facie the eventual claim in damages by a plaintiff may well be statute-barred by the time relief is claimed. By section 2(1) Limitation Act 1939 no action in simple contract or tort may be brought after the expiration of six years from the date the cause of action accrues, and six years is but a short time in the life of a house. Does the cause of action, then, accrue to the plaintiff when the foundations were first inspected and passed as adequate? when the house is actually built? when the plaintiff purchases the house? or when structural faults start to manifest themselves? The House of Lords' decision in Anns 8 Others v Merton London Borough Council (1977) 2 WLR 1024, answers these questions and, some would argue, extends the liability of Councils. But before looking at this case it is necessary to trace the recent development of the principle that local authorities are under a common law duty to take reasonable care to see that building regulations are complied with and that if the council's surveyor negligently approves of foundations which result in a house being built and put on the market with a hidden defect likely to cause injury to a future purchaser, then the council will be liable to the house-purchaser for its surveyor's negligence. Margaret Rutherford

Author(s): Rutherford, Margaret

Keywords: liability;law;case studies;anns & others v merton london borough council