Under section 1(1) of the 1972 Defective Premises Act a person “taking on work for or in connection with the provision of a dwelling” owes a duty to see that the work which they take on is done in a workmanlike or, as the case may be, professional manner, with proper materials and so that as regards that work the dwelling will be fit for habitation when completed. But does that include an approved inspector performing their statutory function under the 1984 Building Act, which involves inspection and certification in order to ensure compliance with building regulations?

The Court of Appeal has ruled that, giving section 1(1) its natural and ordinary meaning, an approved inspector performing statutory functions does not fall within the section. They have no statutory power to influence the design or construction of a building in any way, other than to stipulate that it must comply with the law. In certifying, or refusing to certify, plans and works, the inspector is not engaged in the positive role of the provision or creation of the relevant building, but performs the essentially negative regulatory role of checking for compliance against prescribed criteria. 

The Court found powerful support in the House of Lords decision in Murphy v Brentwood District Council [1991] 1 AC 398, noting that the decision strongly suggests that a local authority inspector owes no duty under section 1(1) and that no distinction can properly be drawn between the position of a local authority inspector and an approved inspector.

Herons Court, the Lessees And Management Company of v Heronslea Ltd & Ors [2019] EWCA Civ 1423