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Defective Premises Act

Zennstrom -v- Fagot and Others [2013] EWHC 288 (TCC) – Scope of Duty under s.1 (4) (a) Defective Premises Act 1972

Zennstrom -v- Fagot or Zennstrom -v- Wilks and Moseley

On the 21st February 2013, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart handed down judgment in Zennstrom -v- Fagot and Others which considered the scope of the duty owed under s.1 (4) (a) Defective Premises Act 1972 (DPA).

The judgment is required reading for all practitioners handling claims under the DPA. It is particularly relevant to owners and vendors of residential properties who extensively refurbish or rebuild them and eventually re-sell them, as it analyses the type of evidence that is likely to be adduced in an attempt to impose the obligations of the DPA upon them.

The facts

The Second and Third Defendants (the Defendants) bought a house in Hamble, Southampton. They lived in it as their principal private residence, did some work on it and then wished to extend and refurbish it. They ended up demolishing it and building a new property, which they said was their dream home in which they intended to live permanently.

Due to a change in career direction, the Defendants had to sell their home. They sold it to the Claimants.

The Claimants alleged the house was defective. Further, they say the Defendants built the house purely for profit.

Section 1(1) 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 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 acquires an interest (whether legal or equitable) in the dwelling;

to see that the work which he takes on is done in a workmanlike or, as the case may be, professional manner, with proper materialsand so that as regards that work the dwelling will be fit for habitation when completed.”

The law

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

“A person who-

(a) in the course of a business which consists of or includes providing or arranging for the provision of dwellings or installations indwellings; or
(b) […]

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.”

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