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Last edited 29 Mar 2022
De minimis in construction
De minimis is a legal term which is derived from a Latin expression referring to things that are too minimal or unimportant to be considered. It is taken from a longer phrase which translates as ‘the law does not concern itself with trifles’. What this means in practice is that generally the law does not encourage parties to pursue legal action for breaches of rules or agreements where the impact is minimal.
Practical completion is often certified when there are de minimis (very minor) items 'not affecting beneficial occupancy' that remain incomplete and that can be put right without undue interference or disturbance to occupants, i.e. the client is able to take possession of the works and use them for their intended purpose. However, the legal basis for this is not clear, and unless the contract states otherwise, if the works are not complete, practical completion need not be certified.
In relation to party wall issues, ‘de minimis works’ are those that may be so minor that service of a notice under the Party Wall Act would be generally regarded as not necessary. The government’s explanatory booklet gives examples of ‘de minimis works’ as those unlikely to affect the structural strength or support functions of a party structure or cause damage to the neighbour’s side of it, such as re-plastering, shallow chasing for electrical wiring or inserting power sockets, and screws to support shelves, kitchen cupboards, and the like.
In contrast, in the context of money laundering, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 effectively created notifiable incidents arising in situations that many would not consider as falling within the definition of ‘money laundering’, and sets no de minimis limit. In other words, a deliberate under-declaration of one’s own tax liability, even of only a few pounds, could be considered a money laundering offence.
NB The glossary of statistical terms, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), defines de minimis creditors as: ‘Minor creditors that are exempted from debt restructuring to simplify implementation of the Paris Club restructuring agreements. Their claims are payable in full as they fall due. An exposure limit defining a minor creditor is specified in each Agreed Minute.’
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