International Construction Law Review
BOOK REVIEW: RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION LAW (FIRST EDITION)
By Professor Philip Britton and Associate Professor Matthew Bell, Dr Deirdre Ní Fhloinn and Kim Vernau. Published by Hart Publishing, September 2021. Pages: 696 (590 pages+tables). ISBN 9781509939237. Price: Hardback £110, ebook £99.
Construction law is full of contrasts and oddities. One is the disproportionate attention that topics such as “concurrent delay” have received in academic writing, commentary and conferences. Why, it may be asked, do we need any great volume of literature on “concurrent delay”, seeing as “instances of concurrent delay … arise only rarely”?1
Conversely, there are areas of construction law which are of profound personal and societal importance, yet which have been almost entirely neglected. Residential construction law (or “resi”, as it is referred to – a little pejoratively – in the UK) is the prime example of such a blind spot. The houses or apartments in which we live our private lives are our most important places, and should be safe, comfortable and physically sound. If they are not designed or built correctly there will be problems – defects, which may require rectification at small or large cost, or which even, in extreme and tragic circumstances, cause loss of life (of which the Grenfell Tower inferno of 2017 provides a recent and shocking example). Surely, given the significance of the subject matter, we should give some attention to the law that relates to residential building work?
Fortunately, this egregious lacuna has now been filled by Residential Construction Law, a singular tome by Professor Philip Britton and Associate Professor Matthew Bell, with specialist contributions from Dr Deirdre Ní Fhloinn and Kim Vernau.
The authors are well placed to write on this topic. Philip Britton is a retired professor of construction law at King’s College, London, and Associate Professor Matthew Bell is a distinguished academic at Melbourne Law School, where he is co-director of studies for construction law. Associate Professor Bell’s PhD thesis addressed the legal aspects of the Grenfell disaster in London, as well as the Lacrosse apartments fire in Melbourne of 2014.
The book approaches the subject by recognising that there are two different paradigms in which residential building defects may arise. First, where a person who owns a property engages a builder to perform work on the property. In this situation, the owner will usually have entered into a contract with the builder, and may be protected by contractual rights for
1 John Marrin QC, “Concurrent Delay Revisited”, SCL article 179, February 2013, page 19, www.scl.org.uk (last accessed 23 February 2022).
Pt 2] Book Review
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