This short article considers some of the more common issues concerning ongoing obligations for defects in Qatar.

The building/infrastructure is complete and collectively the contractor, consultant and employer breathe a sigh of relief as the Completion Certificate is executed. All that’s left is snagging and the defect liability period; or is it?

In reality the contractor and consultant still continue to bear some liability for defects in what they have designed and built. To fully understand what these ongoing responsibilities may include involves a consideration of the contract terms, the underlying legal system and the type and nature of any defect that arises.

This short article considers some of the more common issues concerning ongoing obligations for defects in Qatar.

Patent defects

The starting point is Article 696(1) of Law No. 22 of 2004 (Civil Code) which provides:

“When work is delivered in practice or in accordance with the law, the contractor’s liability for any apparent defect or breach of the conditions of the contract in respect thereof will be extinguished.”

Therefore, unless the contract or law says otherwise, a contractor will not be liable for defects that are apparent at the time of taking over.

Defects notification periods

Article 696(1) is not mandatory, however, so the parties can agree a different approach. This is partly what the defects notification or liability periods under most standard form construction contracts do.

The defects notification / liability period extends the period during which the contractor must return to site and rectify defects.

It applies to defects that were apparent at taking over (though you must usually identify at taking over that such defects are not accepted) as well as defects discovered during the defects notification / liability period.

Latent defects

Latent defects are defects that were not discovered and could not reasonably have been discovered at taking over (or, if there is one, at the end of the defects notification / liability period).

Article 696(2) Civil Code identifies that a contractor will be liable for latent defects discovered after taking over, provided that the employer notifies the contractor of the defect:

“If any defect or breach is concealed and the employer then discovers it after taking delivery, he must take action to notify the contractor of it, while having regard to trade custom, otherwise he will be deemed to have accepted the work.”

If the employer does not notify the contractor of the defect, the contractor will not be liable and the employer will be deemed to have accepted the defect. The period within which notification must be made will depend on “trade custom” or “industry norms”.

Providing that the contractor is notified of the defect within the appropriate time, the general prescription period for bringing claims of either ten or 15 years will apply to latent defects (see our separate note on limitation periods for contract claims).

Decennial liability

Decennial liability is described at Article 711 of the Civil Code. It provides that architects, engineers and contractors bear strict liability (meaning that fault does not have to be found) in respect of:

  • the partial or total destruction of buildings, or
  • any defects in buildings that threaten their stability and safety.

Decennial liability applies for ten years from completion; however, a claim can be commenced up to three years after the collapse or actual discovery of the defect. Accordingly, contractors, architects and engineers may, in fact, be liable for up to 13 years from completion.

Decennial liability is mandatory - it cannot be excluded, limited, waived or assigned. Accordingly it will apply even if the employer purports to accept the defect at the time of taking over.