Who's liable for costs to replace non-compliant downlighter lamps in new-builds?

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R
Richie
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My question is about liability for costs of replacing non-compliant halogen downlighter fittings in kitchens and bathrooms.

This week I have had five electrical installation certifications carried out on HMOs which were built between 2003 and 2006 by the same builder on the same estate. The electrical contractor this time noted three main problems affecting those light fittings, of which there are 15-17 in each house, and which even under the regulations at the time, were non-compliant with the regulations. Specifically:

(1) ALL the downlighters used are clearly labelled NOT to be used under loft insulation, and yet in each house there are eight of them in the 2nd/top floor bathroom and ensuite which are of course under a thick layer of loft insulation that was required at the time of build. This meant that they would all be at great risk of overheating. In one of the houses, the cabling to one lamp has become brittle and damaged because of overheating, and that was graded as “C1 Dangerous”.

(2) ALL the downlighters were fitted with 50W GU10 halogen lamps which run too hot to touch, but above which were no fire hoods or barriers of any kind, even the nine in each house in the ground-floor kitchen and cloakrooms. This meant that fire could spread faster between floors (even if not caused by those lamps overheating), so was graded "C2 Potentially dangerous - Urgent remedial action required".

(3) NONE of the downlighter fittings was 12V (Extra Low Voltage) or IP65 rated (spray resistant) and so should not have been used above showers, and yet in each ensuite bathroom they are mounted directly above (and within touching distance) of the shower cubicle, and so was also graded C2. The same is true for the ones in the main bathrooms, which were since modified to have showers above the bathtubs.

The contractor says he has seen this same thing in the many dozens of houses and flats on the same estate, and that until now, owners/landlords have simply paid up to have the light fittings replaced, because the contractor was forced to give the "Unsatisfactory" C1 and C2 grades, requiring urgent action. However, in my view:

(a) the original builder failed to specify the correct lamp fittings; and/or
(b) the original electrical contractor failed to fit compliant fittings even ignoring the labels on the fittings; and, as well as that,
(c) the building control team at the local authority does not seem to have picked up or acted upon on any of this during construction of any of the hundreds of houses and flats on that estate, built in at least distinct four phases. If they had properly inspected any one at random of those houses in the first phase, they would have avoided the dangerous fittings being installed in hundreds of subsequent houses.

The Unsatisfactory certificates now require me to rectify these problems immediately, so I cannot wait for a legal process to sort out who is at fault, but I want to know whom I should pursue to recover the costs later.

Anyone been in this situation and have ideas, please?

18/03/2012 00:00

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