Architect’s Certificates Held to Be Binding Contracts

In Hunt and others v Optima (Cambridge) Ltd and others the Technology and Construction Court considered a claim by long leaseholders in a block of flats, against (among others):

  1. the firm of architects responsible for developing the flats; and
  2. the company employed to inspect the premises with a view to providing certificates to potential purchasers to confirm the quality of the construction.

The court held that the repairing covenant covered, among others, the claimants, and that the architects had owed a duty of care to the claimants. The costs of remedial work would be allowed, as well as damages for each claimant proportionate to their loss.

Historically, courts have been less willing to see a contractual link between the architects issuing architect’s certificates and the possible end-users if the end-user is not the actual person directly in contract with the person issuing the certificate. However this judgment has said these certificates are contracts in their own right and there was due consideration given by the purchasers by paying the purchase price to the developer. These certificates have probably been considered as box-ticking exercises in the past, but this has now changed and architects who have been issuing these certificates now need to pay a good deal more attention to the end-users and how they are affected by the build.

So the certificates, which most normally see as just a statement by an architect that work has been completed in a certain situation, were instead interpreted by the court as being something that imposed a duty of care to the end-users. In the court’s view these certificates were clearly to be used for the benefit of the purchaser, and the architect knew the purchaser and lender would rely on these certificates.

 

Oliver Kew

Published on 24/05/2013

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