In terms of building work to your home extensions (and of course all other contracts), the Limitation Act, passed in 1980, specifies the limitation periods which applies in relation to what it terms ‘simple contracts’ and deeds. The Limitation Act allows customer claims against actions for breach of contract and tort, such as negligence, to be brought within a period of six years under a simple contract and twelve years if the contract is executed as a more formal deed. Under English law, the most typical ‘simple’ contract is the one which is executed with a signature only. Many contractors are not aware of the act and some that are aware of it do not always let their customers know of its existance. This period is known as the Primary Limitation Period. If you try to make a claim after this point in time then it is quite possible that your case will be time barred. The time limits are outlined in the Limitation Act.
In some instances (for example in claims that are for negligence only), the time limit may be extended if the negligence is discovered after the Primary Limitation Period. This is known as the Secondary Limitation Period. This time limit is three years from something called the ‘Date of Knowledge’, which is the date you become aware (or ought to have been aware) of the negligence. Additionally, there is an absolute long stop of 15 years for professional negligence claims.
Consumer Rights Act
The often quoted Supply of Goods and Service Act now only applies to contracts actually entered into before 1 October 2015. Since, this has now been replaced by the new Consumer Rights Act . This has made some changes to customer rights to return faulty goods and get a refund, replacement or repair.
Draft Building Safety Bill
At the time of writing, the UK government is also bringing forward fundamental changes via a draft Building Safety Bill that will improve building and fire safety, so that people will be, and will feel, safer in their homes. It of course follows the avoidable tragedy of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.
Insurance for Domestic Building Works
Irrespective of your above statutory rights, and for more specialised guidance on bespoke insurance that you might need to cover building works to your extension etc, please don’t ever assume your annual household insurance will cover what you need – because it is unlikely your policy would include things other that just everyday DIY and minor everyday maintenance and repair. As a starting point (and not being house insurance specialists), Atoll suggest you read this guide below prepared by Protek Insurance.
After completion, Protek also advise you to also consider a so-called ‘structural warranty’, which covers consequential damage on any new works to the property for 10 years. Included are late-discovered ‘Latent Defects’ in the design, workmanship, materials and components causing major damage.
For more information see Protek Insurances’s structural warranty page.
Protek’s insurance advice is as reproduced below:
“Carrying out an extension project brings an increased risk of loss or damage because not only are you carrying out new works but you have an increased exposure in the form of the structure that’s being extended – which is usually your house. Extension insurance is crucial as home insurance does not normally adequately cover the risks that are inherent in an extension project”.
How extension insurance works
“Extension insurance needs to cater for both the existing elements of the property that’s being extended and all the new extension works that go into the process. The existing structure is usually your house – so if the property collapses while creating a new opening for example, the extension insurance will cover it and completely replaces the requirement for buildings insurance, which is not suitable. All the works, including any temporary works, materials, plant tools and equipment need to be covered. Public liability and employers liability is automatically included to ensure you are adequately protected. Extension insurance needs to be in place from the moment you plan to start works on the property and should continue to the point the project is completed and taken into full use”.
Help choosing the extension insurance cover you need
“Our staff have many years’ experience in helping people get the right cover in place for their projects. We have designed our extension insurance product to be inherently flexible both in terms of product options and choice of cover duration whilst being comprehensive and competitive. If you are utilising a contractor to carry out the works, issues may arise as to who is contractually responsible for insuring the existing structure because the contractors insurance will not cover it. Extension Insurance can solve that issue quite simply”.
Why you should have Extension Insurance
“It’s not just serious losses like a fire or flood that you need to be protected against, claims for theft of materials, plant tools and equipment can become quite expensive if not insured. A collapse whilst knocking through to create an opening may have disastrous consequences for your house. Vandals gaining access to the part completed project will cause a huge amount of damage and destruction even if they don’t steal anything and the remoteness of a site just adds to the issue. You may have neighbours in close proximity and accidental damage to their property can become an expensive and emotional problem. Building sites are hazardous places of work – injury sustained by contractors, friends or visitors to site – whether invited or not – are all likely to become your responsibility and claims for injury are usually very large and can result in prosecution. Essentially it’s just not worth leaving your project uninsured. Protek’s extension insurance covers you for all these eventualities”.
Party Wall Agreements
“If your are proposing to carry out work within three or six meters of a party or boundary wall your will invariably have to consider your liability under the Party Wall Act 1996. Under the terms of the Act, your neighbour has a right to be compensated for any loss or damage caused by your relevant works. So, should you cause damage to the neighbouring property inadvertently, public liability does not provide protection as it is a foreseeable loss. However, cover for your contractual liability can be included under Protek Extension Insurance as an option on any project where you have evidence of a party wall agreement in place”.
Never run out of cover
“Protek recognises that projects don’t always run to schedule which is why we have flexible cover periods on offer and the ability to purchase short term policies to effectively extend cover as required”.
“You can optionally include legal expenses (professional fees insurance) when arranging your site insurance cover. It provides cover for contractual disputes with the contractors, trades and professionals involved with your project so that if things aren’t going to plan because you are in dispute you can gain legal help and where the prospect of success is good, assistance in seeking resolution. Its important to bear in mind that you must have contracts evidenced in writing. Advice on arranging contracts is available here“
Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 if you need more help – a trained adviser can give you advice over the phone. You can also use their online form.
Working With an Architect on Your Home
Check out the advice from the Royal Institute of British Architects
(RIBA) and download their various free guides, including their
information and advocacy on the benefits of Working With an Architect on Your Home .
Ian Banks has been a Chartered RIBA Architect now for over 30 years, and would be delighted to assist you. Call him now on 07717710014 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Further information and guides are also accessible off the new Houzz Pro website for Atoll Architecture.