CIAT opposes accelerated passage of Defective Premises Bill in Northern Ireland

On behalf of CIAT, Chief Executive Tara Page has written to the Northern Irish Assembly opposing the accelerated passage of the Defective Premises Bill, which would retrospectively extend liability for defects in houses and apartments from six years to thirty years.

The letter stresses key areas of concern, including the lack of consultation with industry or consideration of issues similar to those experienced in England. The letter also highlights that the legislation will likely lead to new exposures for long-completed projects, which will affect clients, owners, and users.

The Chief Executive said:

The vast majority of professional service providers do not operate very large companies and are mainly micro SMEs (up to ten) or sole practitioners. They will simply not have the capital to fund uninsured losses for remedial work over which they had no influence or control, nor the cost of dealing with claims.

The Institute also asks the Assembly whether the insurance market has been consulted on the realistic availability of insurance to cover the extended and retrospective periods of liability, and what safeguards are in place against spurious claims.

The Institute urged an in-depth review of the proposals be undertaken in collaboration with both the insurance market and legal experts to “arrive at a more sensible and realistic solution.”

The letter also pointed out the need for clarity to avoid confusion over liability for workmanship or product substitution, and that without due process and thorough review, the amendments might create loopholes for unscrupulous claims and unrealistic risk transfers.

Page urged that the wording be reviewed “to precisely define the defects intended to be addressed.”

The Chief Executive concluded by advocating for reconsideration of the accelerated passage of the Defective Premises Bill to ensure that any legislative changes are fair and reasonable, and support the integrity of industry, while providing assurance to both professionals and the public.

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