Heron’s Court v NHBC Building Control Services Ltd [2018] EWHC 3309 (TCC)

This case considers whether Approved Inspectors, the private sector providers of building control, owe a duty under s1(1) of the Defective Premises Act 1972. Heron’s Court is a block of flats in Radlett, Hertfordshire. The claimants were the lessees and the management company of the block. They asserted that the construction of the flats was defective. One of the defendants to this action was NHBC Building Control Service Ltd (“BCS”). BCS had Approved Inspector status, which meant that they were authorised to carry out inspection of the plans and building work for the purposes of the Building Act 1984. BCS could certify whether the relevant building regulations had been complied with. The claimants alleged that that BCS had a duty under s1(1) of the DPA as it had taken on work “for or in connection with the provision of a dwelling” and, therefore, was required to see that when it inspected the block it did so in a workmanlike or professional manner so that the dwelling would be fit for habitation. BCS applied to strike out the claim on the basis that as an Approved Inspector it did not owe the duty alleged. The Judge granted the application. The DPA was targeted at builders, architects and designers and other professionals who were contributing to the design and construction of the building. By contrast the essential function of an Approved Inspector was to certify whether that design or construction is lawful. The Judged regarded Approved Inspectors as carrying out the same regulatory function as local authority building inspectors and were to be regarded as in the same position in relation to the s1(1) duty notwithstanding that they work for profit.