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Liability periods

Liability periods in construction and contracting law

Building without problems is almost an utopia. It is therefore very important as a client to know your rights with regard to the contractor, in the event of faulty implementation, or in the event of subsequent problems.

A crucial point with regard to the possibilities of contacting the contractor for certain defects is the acceptance of the works.

After all, every performance of a work comes to a point where the contractor completes his work and the client must accept the work. If at that time matters can be established that do not meet the wishes or agreements, these must be noticed immediately.

After all, if the works are accepted, you will not be able to return to those points that were visible at the time of acceptance. However, this does not alter the fact that after acceptance of the works, the contractor would be completely liberated.

There are two situations in which the contractor can still be addressed.

The first situation concerns that of the slight hidden defects. These are defects that aren4t compromising the stability of the building. It must be a hidden defect that could not be discovered upon completion and of that nature, and that if it had been visible, it would not be accepted by the Builder. In addition, it must spring from a mistake of a contractor.

For example, one thinks of the occurrence of condensation in double glazing after a certain time. It goes without saying that you cannot notice this upon acceptance of the joinery and this only comes to light afterwards.

In such cases, it is necessary to act diligently.

After all, it is assumed that when detecting hidden defects, this must nevertheless be communicated within a reasonable period and brought to court in the absence of agreement, if not it can be considered that this has been accepted. What such a reasonable term is should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and taking into account the circumstances (for example, current negotiations will be able to extend the reasonable term), but it is clear that you shouldn’t wait years.

Moreover, the guarantee for minor hidden defects is not absolute. After all, a contractor can only be held liable for minor hidden defects if the defect occurs within a period of 10 years after acceptance of the works. However, this ten-year period is a normal prescription period, which is therefore susceptible to interruption or suspension in certain circumstances and can therefore be longer.

The aforementioned warranty period of 10 years for hidden defects coincides with the ten-year liability of the contractor / architect.

This is the second option to address the contractor and in this case also the architect, and exists for serious defects with regard to major works such as the construction (structural work or roof works) of a house.

Unlike the term for hidden defects, this term is an expiry term, which is not susceptible to interruption or suspension. Moreover, it is of public order and therefore cannot be deviated from.

Anyone who wants to sue his contractor / architect on the basis of the ten-year liability period must therefore always submit this claim within 10 years, otherwise the claim will become inadmissible.

Another distinction with liability for minor hidden defects therefore concerns the shortcoming committed by the contractor. After all, the ten-year liability applies to serious hidden defects that endanger the stability of the structure (Articles 1792 and 2270 Civil Code).

This period starts from the moment of acceptance of the works, more specifically, in principle, from the final delivery of the building.

However, it is permitted to move the starting point of this period to the provisional acceptance by means of this provisional acceptance (this is the provisional acceptance of the works and after which a period starts within which the contractor still has to resolve the final problems, and within which thus hidden defects may occur), to indicate the value of approval of the works.

In this context, it is also important to note that if a contractor is willing to make repairs to the defects found, these repairs in themselves trigger a new ten-year liability period.

If you have a problem with a contractor or if you are unsure about an established defect and the deadlines, do not hesitate to contact our office. We are happy to assist you with all aspects of construction / contracting issues.