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1 March 2016 | Comment | Article by Iwan Jenkins

The three minute guide: defects liability periods

A defects liability period is a period of time following practical completion during which a contractor remains liable under the building contract for dealing with any defects which become apparent. Depending on the form of contract you are reading, it may also be referred to as a rectification period or defects correction period.

A defects liability period is usually a period of around six or 12 months but it can vary depending on the contract used. Any defects or faults which arise during this period (for example – due to defective materials or workmanship) must be put right by the contractor at its own expense.

For example, under a JCT traditional building defects are notified to a contractor by the Contract Administrator, not later than 14 days after the end of the defects liability period. A contractor is then provided a reasonable amount of time to correct those notified defects. Provided that it does so, the Contract Administrator will then issue a ‘Certificate of Making Good’ which triggers a contractor’s entitlement to the remainder of any retention money which has been withheld by the employer. The situation is similar in other standard forms of contract, although the terminology may differ and the time periods can vary (especially the NEC ECC).

The inclusion of a defects liability period in a contract arguably benefits both the contractor and the employer. For the employer, it provides an opportunity to request that the contractor return to site and remedy a defect, while for the contractor it is usually cheaper to return and remedy a defect itself than to be asked to pay for the employer’s losses in arranging for someone else to remedy that defect. Having a practical contractual remedy can therefore save the parties’ time and cost compared to adjudication or litigation.

It should be noted, however, that defects liability periods will only arise if they are included in the contract. Contractors therefore need to be aware that they do not have an automatic right to return to site to rectify a defect. Employers, on the other hand, need to carefully consider the wording and requirements of defects rectification provisions if they are considering hiring another contractor to fix the original contractor’s mistakes, or else they risk being found to have failed in their duty to mitigate their losses.

It is also worth noting that a defect which is not discovered until after the defects liability period has expired is still a breach of contract for which the contractor is liable (subject to limitation arguments). In this circumstance, the contractor has no right to return to the site to repair the defect but is liable to the employer for damages.

Author bio

Iwan Jenkins


Iwan advises on non-contentious construction matters and has prepared and negotiated documentation on a wide variety of projects. He has advised on building contracts, appointments, development agreements, construction security documentation and all associated documentation.

Iwan has advised public sector clients in social housing, education, local and national government as well as contractors, consultants, sub-contractors, developers and funders in the private sector.

Iwan has a particular interest and expertise in framework agreements and collaborative construction contracts.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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