Broadly speaking, most people know that a defect is a fault that renders something unfit for its intended purpose. In the context of construction, building work can be defective if it doesn’t follow the specifications set out in the approved building plans and contracts.
There are different kinds of defects that can result from poor workmanship or materials, and the legal right to remedy them depends on the type of defect. Understanding the difference between patent defects and latent defects can help property owners to take the right course of action.
This quick guide explains what patent and latent defects are, how they are different, and why you should have latent defects insurance to help protect you against them.
A patent defect is an easily observable defect, which is usually identifiable during construction works. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the defect is immediately obvious to a layperson, but that it should be noticeable to anyone with the relevant expertise.
This is why regular inspections are important throughout the building process. A chartered surveyor or engineer should be able to spot patent defects that the contractors may not have, and instruct them on what they need to do to correct the defects within an acceptable timeframe.
Such identified ‘snags’ should be corrected as work proceeds, allowing the project to be completed to the proper standards. The building is unlikely to receive a completion certificate until it can pass all Building Control inspections.
Examples of patent defects include things like incorrectly laid foundations or drainage, cracks in walls or floors, broken or missing roof elements, leaks and water stains, etc. A patent defect doesn’t have to be something that makes the property unsafe or unusable, though – it can also be something that doesn’t conform with building plans, such as using the wrong material or method.
A latent defect is the opposite of a patent defect – one that isn’t easily observable, and can remain hidden for months or years before its effects become noticeable. These concealed flaws may be existing but not properly developed yet, and therefore may be missed by ordinary inspections during the works or the purchase and handover of the property.
These more complex defects are typically caused by faults in the design, materials used, or the work carried out by builders and contractors. The consequences can be severe because they can build up for a long time, gradually causing damage until it becomes obvious that something is wrong.
For example, an error in the foundations could lead to the house sinking or even collapsing several years down the line, or a mistake in the damp-proofing could lead to water ingress causing rot and mould to develop throughout the house.
Everything may have seemed fine for a while, but a property owner might eventually notice something like cracks around the window frames or doors sticking – smaller signs that keep getting worse if left unchecked. An inspection by a structural engineer may then uncover a serious defect that needs to be rectified immediately.
One way to protect yourself against the often extremely high costs of repairing latent defects is to make sure that your property has latent defects insurance. This is a structural warranty that’s taken out by the person responsible for the construction work, and transferred to the new owner when the property is sold.
Such warranties cover the load-bearing structural elements of the building only, allowing the policyholder to claim for latent structural defects during the cover period, which can be 10–15 years (depending on when the structure was built and when the policy was set up).
However, part of the warranty involves the provider carrying out regular site inspections, which increases the likelihood of patent defects being caught early. This can reduce the risk of latent defects occurring, but the risk always exists – which is why it’s always a good idea to have latent structural defects insurance.
To find out more about latent defects cover or to request a quote for our ABC+ Warranty, get in touch with the team at Architects Certificate by calling 0161 928 8804. You can also email your enquiry to email@example.com and we will respond as quickly as possible.
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