HL Deb 17 June 1975 vol 361 cc865-6

7.21 p.m.

Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE rose to move, That the Draft Defective Premises (Northern Ireland) Order 1975, laid before the House on 13th May, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move, that the Defective Premises (Northern Ireland) Order 1975, a draft of which was laid before this House on 13th May 1975, be approved.

The Defective Premises Act of 1972 implemented a number of proposals in the Law Commission's Report on Civil Liability of Vendors and Lessors for Defective Premises, but that Act does not apply to Northern Ireland, and this Order now largely brings the law on defective premises in Northern Ireland into line with that in England and Wales. The only departure is that one Article has been omitted because of the different circumstances pertaining to Northern Ireland at present. This Article, had it been included, would have extended the liability of landlords for injuries to third parties caused by defects in premises which they are required to keep in repair, or which they have a right to repair. In Northern Ireland, because there are many buildings either derelict or bomb-damaged, such a provision could lead to injustice to landlords.

My Lords, the order is necessary because a citizen, when buying or renting premises, has no Common Law "guarantee". The onus is on him to take the necessary precautions, and he may have no redress against shoddy workmanship unless he can prove false representation or breach of an expressed warranty. The commencement date of the Order, 1st January 1976, should allow sufficient time for interested parties to become aware of its provisions. Article 2 contains defini- tions, and paragraph 4 makes it impossible to "contract out" of the duties laid down in the Order. Article 3 imposes a duty on those who undertake work for or in connection with the provision of a dwelling to ensure that it is fit for habitation. It applies to all those involved in the design and construction but not to estate agents and solicitors.

My Lords, the effect of Article 4 is that, where a dwelling is built, or first disposed of, with the benefit of rights under an "approved scheme", no action can be brought for breach of the duty under Article 3. Schemes will be approved by the Northern Ireland Department of Housing, Local Government and Planning, who will ensure that the benefits of the scheme are adequate before doing so. The corresponding provision in the Defective Premises Act 1972 was framed with the structure of the National House Building Council scheme in mind. In Northern Ireland, there is a Committee of that Council, whose scheme I am sure would be acceptable to the Northern Ireland Department of Housing, Local Government and Planning.

Article 5 has the effect of abolishing the vendor's and lessor's immunity from liability for injuries sustained through defects in the state of the premises, even if the vendor or lessor created those defects himself. Paragraph (2) excludes the operation of this Article where the disposal of the premises occurs before the commencement of the Order. The continuing liability for negligence is a matter which might have affected the price agreed for the disposal. Article 6 makes the Order binding on the Crown in right of Her Majesty's Government in Northern Ireland, subject to the general provisions of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 as to the Crown's liability in tort.

My Lords, this is a brief, but useful, piece of legislation and I beg to move that the Order be approved.

Moved, that the Draft Defective Premises (Northern Ireland) Order 1975, laid before the House on 13th May, be approved.—(Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.