The recent case of Martlet Homes Ltd v Mulalley & Co Ltd, is the first of many post-Grenfell fire cladding cost cases and its final ruling sets an interesting precedent for future cladding claims.
In this case, the claimant (Martlet Homes Ltd), as the owner of five Gosport tower blocks, sought £8 million in damages from the defendant, and building contractor, (Mulalley & Co Ltd), for the costs of investigating, and replacing, faulty fire safety equipment and potentially dangerous cladding.
The defendant fitted a cladding system (StoTherm Classic), which consists mostly of expanded polystyrene boards. This cladding, when incorrectly fitted, can pose a fire risk to both the building’s integrity and to the safety of residents.
After the events at the Grenfell Tower, the claimant checked their five buildings for faults and found unsafe cladding and that the horizontal fire stoppers on each floor had been installed incorrectly. They chose to sue the defendant over this for a breach of the building regulations.
While the defendant agreed that there were issues with the fitting of the cladding, they argued that simple repairs could have been done instead of a total replacement. The claimant then made the point that they were entitled to the full amount as the cladding didn’t meet fire safety standards even at the time of installation, and that the requested £8million was less than the cost of repair.
The Judge decided to give the claimant the £8 million in damages to cover costs of replacing the faulty work and waking watch.
This is a win for developers and flat owners. But, as the judge stressed, the outcome each case will depend upon its own facts. In this case, the most important points to consider are:
- The faulty installation of the cladding system was a breach of the Building Regulations.
- The cladding, even if correctly installed, would not have complied with the Building Regulations.
- A Contractor cannot rely on a BBA Certificate (British Board of Agremont) as conclusive evidence of compliance with Building Regulations.
- BS-8414 and BR135 test passes will, in most cases, be considered as proof of compliance with the Building Regulations.
The decision also covered the following:
- The cost of a waking watch is a recoverable cost against a Contractor who supplies defective cladding, within reason.
- It is important for contractors to keep supply chain records and that their suppliers have the necessary certificates and can provide the same.
We don’t think this is the last we will hear on this subject in court, but this case provides many useful points for guidance in future cases. If you are a Developer, Contractor, Management Association, Resident or a homeowner interested in this, or any other matter of construction or property law problem, Baron Grey would be happy to advise and welcome you to contact the team at Baron Grey Solicitors on 020 8891 4311