The RAAC concrete scandal – its legal implications for commercial property owners and occupiers

September 19, 2023

By Siôn Fôn

RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) was used in the construction of buildings between the 1950s and the 1990s. It is known to have been used in public buildings, but there are concerns for its prevalence in privately owned property too. RAAC is a lightweight material and is generally cheaper and easier to use than standard concrete.

What is the concern?

RAAC’s durability is poorer than standard concrete, with a lifespan of 30 years. RAAC can, therefore, face structural failure.

As RAAC was used between the 1950s and 1990s, it will now be past its lifespan. Many buildings are, therefore, in danger of collapse.

The Legal Implications…

For privately owned property, it is harder to locate which properties were built using RAAC. The prevalence of RAAC in private property could remain undiscoverable until defects cause catastrophes. These owners hold a duty to ensure the structural repairs of buildings under the Defective Premises Act 1972, the Building Safety Act 2022, Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 as well as a duty of care to tenants. Parties will also need to consider their obligations under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 which requires occupiers of premises to be responsible for the safety of their visitors.

What should you consider doing now?

  1. Inspect and procure professional reports on the safety of your building stock.
  2. Review all architect drawings, building specifications and professional reports to identify any further RAAC issues.
  3. Consider whether to urgently implement delayed remedial work.
  4. Check your insurance policies. If RAAC is found, contact your insurers to inform them of the issues.

If RAAC is found, its condition should be investigated and replaced if unsafe. Though this may be costly.

What considerations are there for private landlords?

If the owners are responsible for structural repairs to a building, they should immediately seek legal advice and consider claiming against their insurers or any developers, depending on the situation.

If the tenant is responsible under the lease, you should seek immediate advice about undertaking the works and recovering the cost under the service charge or maintenance provision.

How are property buyers and tenants impacted by RAAC?

Going forward, property purchasers may need to enquire and ask specific queries relating to the prevalence of RAAC.

For new commercial tenants taking on new leases, they may want to consider ensuring that structural repair is not made their responsibility, especially if the building was built between the 1950s and 1990s.

For tenants of existing leases with probably RAAC issues, they may need to undertake a safety check to ensure the safety of its employees.

What about developers?

Developers and the construction sector could face liability under the Defective Premises Act 1972 for unsafe properties they developed between the 1950s and 1990s, because of the Building Safety Act 2022. Any properties completed after September 1993 could now still come under the 30-year limitation period. Therefore, claims may be brought against many parties who had a part in the initial design and delivery of these properties. Developers cannot rely on the fact that any claims against them would by now have expired.

Developers might consider seeking legal advice now to consider any steps they could take and to be in the best position to defend any claim, if one was to arise.

Is doing nothing an option?

Doing nothing is not an option for any party involved in the initial development of a building or a current property owner. Acting now is essential in order to limit liability.

If you want any advice regarding the above, contact a member of our commercial property law team,  Siôn Fôn via email on sfon@darwingray.com or via telephone on 02920 829 107 for a free initial chat to see how we can help you.

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