Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
Builders and designers of commercial properties are currently in
an advantageous position in the law. So far, courts have declined
to hold them liable for claims by subsequent owners for latent
defects following the decision of the High Court in
Courts have taken the view that commercial building owners can
protect themselves by using professional advisers, boilerplate
clauses and insurance. Unsophisticated home owners, on the other
hand, are still able to sue builders, designers and
Recovery against subcontractors for latent defects in a
commercial property is also fraught with difficulties for the same
Currently a commercial building owner will only have a claim
against a builder where the builder's negligence results in
personal injury or property damage. However, where the builder or
the designer's work causes a latent defect, the law is complex
and in dire need of untangling.
On 18 June 2014, the High Court will hear a challenge to the NSW
Court of Appeal's decision to allow a claim by the body
corporate of a commercial building against a builder for defective
The decision affirms the trend in Australian cases towards
liability which had been arrested by the High Court's decision
in Woolcock. The fact that Australia's senior Courts have been
unable to draw the line with certainty reflects the complexity of
this area of the law.
The High Court's decision could be significant for builders,
designers, subcontractors, and owners of commercial premises.
Depending on the outcome, it could affect a building owner's
right of redress where building works were carried out
A decision is likely to be handed down by the end of the
1Woolcock Street Investments v CDG Pty
Ltd  HCA 16 2Owners - Strata Plan No 61288 v Brookfield
Australia Investments Ltd ( NSWCA 317)
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