In the case of Goldswain & Anor, the owners of a modest flat in Finchley decided to convert the cellar of their semi-detached property to create additional living accommodation and hired engineers to produce a safe design. They then hired builders to construct the design, however the builders failed to add any propping to the basement works thus leaving the entire building (including the upstairs flat) to collapse.

Although proceedings were issued against both engineer and builder, unfortunately for the claimants the builders were insolvent and took no part in the proceedings.  The engineers had been appointed to provide a design, but the claimants alleged they had a continuing obligation to visit the site and provide advice and were negligent in failing to warn of the contractor's inadequate performance. The judge concluded that the engineers had not been negligent, and was wholly satisfied that the limited retainer did not extend to an ongoing obligation to supervise the contractor's activities. He found that the fault lay with the builders, who had lacked both the experience and expertise to undertake the works.

This leaves the homeowners in the unfortunate position of paying the mortgage on a property they cannot use whilst they live in alternative rented accommodation.

To view the full text of the decision, please click here.