Clause 125 - Duties relating to work to dwellings etc

Part of Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 21st October 2021.

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Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 12:00 pm, 21st October 2021

To aid Committee members in making interventions, I will try to sit down slowly, so that I am standing for as long as possible. In conjunction with clause 126, which is to come shortly, clause 125 makes changes to the operation of the Defective Premises Act 1972. That Act creates a right to bring a claim for compensation where a dwelling is not “fit for habituation” on completion of that dwelling. The Act currently applies only in relation to the provision of a dwelling, mainly when a property was built defectively in the first place. It does not apply to work done to a dwelling beyond its initial completion—not even to major or complex refurbishment works, such as the cladding of a block, which is what Grenfell Tower underwent. The clause seeks to remedy that.

The clause expands the Defective Premises Act by inserting proposed new section 2A into it. The new section will create a duty to ensure that any work done to a dwelling does not render that dwelling unfit for habitation. It will cover subsequent works done to the building after construction. The clause applies where a person takes on work in relation to any part of a relevant building in the course of a business. That means that it does not apply, for example, to homeowners doing work on their own properties. As in the case of the 1972 Act, the person to whom the duty is owed—the person who has the right to bring a claim—is the person for whom the work is done and any person who holds or subsequently acquires a legal or equitable interest in a dwelling in the building. That includes the freeholder of a block of flats as well as leaseholders.

The “fit for habitation” test is the same test used in the 1972 Act. Subcontractors also owe the same duty for the work that they take on. The clause applies to any relevant building defined as a building consisting of or containing one or more dwellings. The new provision will apply to work completed after the clause comes into force. Clause 126 will provide for a 15-year limitation period in relation to this clause.