The Building Safety Act ("Act") was enacted in April 2022, almost five years after the Grenfell tragedy, the catalyst for the Act. The Act is a long and detailed piece of legislation. It is accompanied by explanatory notes which help to explain some of the reasoning behind many of the sections.
The limitation period is the timeframe within which a claim can be brought. The Limitation Act 1980 provides that actions in contract can be brought within six years from the breach of contract in the case of simple contract, and 12 years from the breach if the contract is executed as a deed. In tort, the time frame is six years from when the cause of action arose (with special arrangements for when the cause of action is not known about at the date of accrual). There are also special time limits in some limited other instances, including claims under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978.
The extension of limitation under the Building Safety Act in relation to some claims, sometimes to 15 years and in other cases to 30 years, is a key point of the Act for litigators to note. It is a major change to the law on limitation.
Limitation periods under the Act are extended in three respects:
- New claims in relation to construction products
- Claims under sections 1 or 2A of the Defective Premises Act 1972, or
- Claims under section 38 of Building Act (this is not yet in force)
New claims - construction products (sections 150-151 of the Act)
In England and Wales the position is as follows:
- Cladding products (which means a cladding system or a component of a cladding system)
- If the right of action accrued before 28 June 2022 – 30 years from the date of accrual. In other words, a claim is currently (as at November 2022) within limitation if the date of accrual was at any point in time from 28 June 1992 onwards. There are transitional provisions for claims which accrued between 28 June 1992 and 28 June 1993. In all those cases limitation does not expire until 28 June 2023.
- If the right action accrued on or after the 28 June 2022 – 15 years from the date of accrual. So, if the right of action accrued on 30 June 2022, limitation would expire on 29 June 2037.
- For any other construction product claim, 15 years from when the cause of action accrued. The claim must have accrued on or after 28 June 2022.
- Claims under the Defective Premises Act 1972 (DPA) (section 135)
- Claims under section 1 of the DPA – if the right to bring a claim arose before 28 June 2022, 30 years from the date on which the right of action accrued. The transitional provisions are the same as for cladding products (see above).
- Claims under section 1 of the DPA – if the right to bring a claim arose after 28 June 2022, 15 years from the date on which the right of action accrued.
- Claims under the new section 2A of the DPA, 15 years from date on which the right of action accrued. The right to bring a claim under section 2A can only have accrued on or after 28 June 2022, being the date that the right to bring such a claim came into force.
- Claims under the section 38 Building Act 1984 (section 135)
- 15 years from the date when on which the right of action accrued. This of course is not yet in force.
This article deals just with the extension of limitation periods under the Act. If you would like to read about the new claims introduced by the Act or the piercing of the veil click here for new claims and here for piercing the corporate veil. If you would like to know more about the Building Safety Act generally sign up to our construction blog and search under fire safety issues (including cladding) or follow our construction and engineering LinkedIn page.