Betterment is an improvement that adds the value to a property or facility. Betterment is a topic of particular relevance to defective building works and involves consideration of both measure of damages and mitigation.
Generally, if repair works are carried out to a higher standard than was necessary, the betterment will be deducted from any damages claimed. However, if the claimant had no choice other than to carry out the works in that way, then no deduction will be made.
In Harbutts Plasticine Limited v Wayne Tank & Pump Co Limited (1970), the court held that the plaintiffs were not required to give credit under the heading of betterment merely because they had replaced an old building with a new one of modern design.
Widgery LJ stated:
'The plaintiffs rebuilt their factory to a substantially different design, and if this had involved expenditure beyond the costs of replacing the old, the difference might not have been recoverable, but there is no suggestion of this here. Nor do I accept that the plaintiffs must give credit under the heading of "betterment" for the fact that their new factory is modern in design and material. To do so would be the equivalent of forcing the plaintiffs to invest their money in the modernising of their plant which might be highly inconvenient for them.’
In Governors of the Hospital for Sick Children and Another v McLaughlin and Harvey Plc and Others (1987) the issue of unnecessary expenditure was approached from the point of view of mitigation. The defendants endeavoured to argue that despite the plaintiffs' reliance on expert opinion the plaintiffs had not acted reasonably in selecting their repair scheme. The court rejected the defendants' argument (see also Skandia Property (UK) and Another v. Thames Water Utilities Ltd.)
NB Betterment can also be a consideration for leases, where work to repair dilapidations at the end of a lease is priced, or the reduction in the value of a property as a result of dilapidations is assessed. See Dilapidations for more information.
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