Civil liability for building damage caused by construction operations: The common law evolves

Paper number: 
October 2009, printed/online, 173k

Philip Britton

October 2009

A revised version of a paper presented at the COBRA conference of the RICS at the University of Cape Town, September 2009.

When construction operations on one plot of land cause damage to buildings or structures on a nearby plot, under what conditions may this lead to liability in tort, for what and on whom? Philip Britton considers the starting-point English law still uses, making protection for buildings and structures depend on the existence of an easement of support (a duty within land law), rather than the better known fault-based principles of the law of negligence. His paper shows how courts in other common law jurisdictions (notably Singapore) have moved beyond the nineteenth century authorities of English law to create a wider duty of support for buildings and structures; how the civil law in Scotland and South Africa already had such a duty; and how the English law of easements may change, following a review under way by the Law Commission.

Introduction - Damage to land, buildings and structures: English law - Remedies: damages - Remedies: injunctions - Legal categories - Rights enjoyed by every owner or occupier - Plot-specific additional land law rights? - Rights of support: Singapore finds a new path - Background - Escaping land law thinking: Xpress Print - Applying the new rules: Afro-Asia - Conclusions.

Philip Britton LLB BCL is a former Director, now Visiting Professor, Centre of Construction Law & Dispute Resolution, King's College London.

Text 20 pages.

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