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Making a legal claim against a builder, architect or construction professional

In the construction industry, the work of architects, engineers and surveyors are integral to the design and structure of any project. Where these professionals fall short of what is expected of them, the loss might be significant in the sense of monetary loss or even more severe in the form of personal injury or death. 

As for any claim for negligence, the starting point is to determine whether the professional owed you a duty of care and whether this duty of care was breached which caused you damage or loss.

Legal duty of Care

The duty of care may in many cases be obvious. That is, where there is a written agreement or retainer between yourself and the professional to provide advice to you on a specifically agreed project. The professional owes you a duty to provide this advice with reasonable skill and diligence and, in most cases, to provide this advice in a timely manner. 

Your surveyor, for instance, owes you a duty to inspect the property and produce an adequate an accurate report, observe visible defects, advise on whether further investigation is needed and whether there are any defects which may pose a potential risk to health and safety. In cases of architects and engineers, serious consequences can arise where mistakes are made early on in a project.

Proving a breach of duty of care

In order to have a valid claim that your architect, surveyor or engineer (for example) was in breach of their duty of care to you, you must show:

  • That they have failed to provide their advice with reasonable diligence and skill 
  • The advice they have given is below that which might be expected of a reasonably competent professional
  • That you have suffered loss as a result of relying on this advice

It is not sufficient if you do not approve or agree with the final advice.  It is also not sufficient for you to show that the advice was inaccurate since a ‘wrong’ advice may not necessarily be negligent.  

In cases where the advice you relied on has resulted in for instance structural damage, expensive remedial work or personal injury, you may be entitled to bring a claim.