Defects in construction
Defects are aspects of the works that are not in accordance with the contract.
Defects may occur because of:
Defects can be 'patent' or 'latent'. Patent defects are those which can be discovered by reasonable inspection. Latent defects are those which cannot be discovered by reasonable inspection, for example problems with foundations which may not become apparent for several years after completion when settlement causes cracking in the building. When a latent defect becomes apparent, it becomes patent rather than latent.
During the defects liability period, the client reports any defects that arise to the contract administrator who decides whether they are defects in the works (i.e. works that are not in accordance with the contract), or whether they are in fact maintenance issues. If the contract administrator considers that they are defects, then they may issue instructions to the contractor to make good the defects within a reasonable time. NB. It is the contractor's responsibility to identify and rectify defects, not the clients, so if the client does bring defects to the contractor's notice, they should make clear that this is not a comprehensive list of all defects.
At the end of the defects liability period, the contract administrator prepares a schedule of defects, listing those defects that have not yet been rectified, and agrees with the contractor the date by which they will be rectified. The contractor must in any event rectify defects within a reasonable time.
When the contract administrator considers that all items on the schedule of defects have been rectified, they issue a certificate of making good defects. This has the effect of releasing the remainder of any retention and will result in the issuing of the final certificate.
It is important to note that the defects liability period is not a chance to correct problems apparent at practical completion, it is a period during which the contractor may be recalled to rectify defects which appear. If there are defects apparent before practical completion, then these should be rectified before a certificate of practical completion is issued. This can put the contract administrator in a difficult position, where both the contractor and the client are keen to issue the certificate (so that the building can be handed over) and yet defects (more than a de minimis) are apparent in the works. Issuing the certificate under these circumstances could render the contract administrator liable for problems that this causes, for example, in the calculation of liquidated damages.
If the contract administrator is pressured to certify practical completion even though the works are not complete, they might consider informing the client in writing of the potential problems of doing so, obtaining written consent from the client to certify practical completion and obtaining agreement from the contractor that they will complete the works and rectify any defects. If the contract administrator is not confident about the potential problems that may result from early certification, they might advise the client to seek legal advise.
NB, NEC suggest that in the ECC (Engineering and Construction Contract), a defect is '...a part of the works which is not as stated in the Works Information or not in accordance with applicable law or the accepted design. There is a reciprocal obligation on both the supervisor and contractor to notify each other as soon as they are aware of a Defect.' At or just after the defects date the supervisor issues a defects certificate, which either certifies that there are no defects, or lists any uncorrected defects.
In a submission to the Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools in 2016, The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) criticised the transfer of responsibility from construction professionals to other parties less involved with the design process and sited the dilution of the role of the design team as one of the causes of poor quality construction. See Inquiry into the construction of Edinburgh schools view of the RIAS for more information.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Alkali-aggregate reaction (AAR).
- Building pathology.
- Certificate of making good defects.
- Cracking and building movement.
- Decennial liability.
- Defective Premises - Liability and Measure of Damages.
- Defective Premises Act.
- Defects certificate.
- Defects correction period.
- Defects date.
- Defects in brickwork.
- Defects in dot and dab.
- Defects in stonework.
- Defects liability period.
- Delay damages.
- Design liability.
- Failure of metals.
- Fit for purpose.
- Flat roof defects.
- Flooring defects.
- Housing defects.
- Latent defects.
- Opening up works for inspection and testing.
- Patent defects.
- Practical completion.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- Reasonable skill and care.
- Remedial work.
- Retention bond.
- Roofing defects.
- Schedule of condition.
- Schedule of defects.
- Scott schedule.
- Site inspection.
- Timber preservation.
 External references
- Blake-Turner & Co. Solicitors: Building defects; the legal position.
Featured articles and news
An Arc de Triomphe for the late-20th century, the La Grande Arche of Paris.
Richard Hayward of Legrand asks whether technology could help developers meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population.
Thomas Heatherwick's ambitious steel structure begins construction.
The principles, practice and formwork of one of the most important components of modern architecture.
New report claims that inappropriate standards and regulations are holding back the use of composites.
The global smart homes and smart light commercial market will grow fastest in the UK.
Have a look at our article explaining the different types of construction contractor.
Futurist Thomas Frey explores the concept of Disposable Housing - could it be a reality sooner than we imagine?
ICE to host new exhibition offering a window onto the civil engineering achievements beneath our feet.
Do you know all the various types of defects in brickwork?
US museum reveals plans for an installation made entirely of paper tubes.
Review of a book looking at how contemporary architecture found its expression within neoliberal capitalism.
The Great Mosque of Djenne, the largest mud-brick building in the world.
Amanda Clack, RICS President offers recommendations to government on Brexit and the construction skills shortage.