An architect who failed to address serious structural defects in a seaside home when drawing up plans for its refurbishment has failed to convince the Court of Appeal that his negligence caused no loss and that he was wrongly hit with a £48,000 damages bill.
Before she bought the property, its owner had received a surveyor’s report that many might have considered frightening. It identified several structural problems, including subsidence and extensive bowing of the walls and roof. She negotiated a reduced purchase price in the light of those defects but did not follow the surveyor’s advice that she should obtain an engineering report before proceeding.
Following the sale, the owner commissioned the chartered landscape architect to draw up plans for its conversion into a three-bedroom home with a view to using it as a holiday let. She made it clear that the refurbishment works needed to deal with the structural defects identified in the surveyor’s report.
The architect drew up plans for the project and was paid just over £2,000 for his work. He admitted breaching the duty he owed his client in that he had failed to address the property’s underlying defects, the existence of which subsequently defeated all the owners’ attempts to re-sell the property. The county court ordered him to pay total damages of £48,521.
On appeal, the architect argued that the owner was well aware that the defects in the property pre-dated the refurbishment works and that his admitted breaches of duty had therefore not caused her any loss. The property’s condition had not been worsened by the work that he had performed for his client.
Whilst acknowledging that the architect’s arguments were superficially attractive, the Court noted that he had failed to follow his client’s instructions and had designed the renovation project without first establishing what works needed to be done to remedy the property’s structural defects. He had also failed to advise her that she should take up the surveyor’s recommendation and instruct an engineer.
The architect had rightly been ordered to pay his client compensation to reflect the difference between the current cost of curing the defects and what the necessary works would have cost had they been carried out when they should have been. The county court’s decision was ‘a model of care’ and the appeal was ‘founded on a fallacy’.