STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
If a builder carries out negligent works on your house, but these remain undiscovered for many years, how does this affect your right to sue?
In many cases a Plaintiff may not realise the extent of the damage until after the six year period, at which stage they will have no right to take a case.
The decision of the Court of Appeal in Brandley v Deane however had dealt comprehensively with the issue of the Statute of Limitations in the context of defective building cases.
The foundations of the Plaintiff’s house had been laid in March 2004. On the 4th of September 2004, the First Defendant Mr Deane, the supervising consulting engineer, issued a Certificate of Compliance with planning permission and building regulations.
However despite this Certificate being issued, the foundations of the house were defective. The houses were completed in January 2005, but in December 2005 the Plaintiff noticed that cracks had begun to appear in each of the houses.
The Plaintiff did not commence proceedings until November 2010. When the case came before the court, the Defendants argued that the date the damage occurred was in 2004, and as such the claim was outside the six-year time limit and was statute barred.
This was appealed to the Court of Appeal, where the main argument advanced was that, although the negligent installation of the foundations and certification were outside the six year period, the actual damage that happened did not occur until the following year when the houses were completed and the cracks began to appear.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the Plaintiff that there must be actual damage before an action can be taken, and while the foundations were defective in 2004 they did not cause any damage until the following year.
The focus of the court when considering any statute issues in respective of defective works cases will be establishing when the damage to the property actually occurred.