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What can happen if your contractor doesn’t have design liability? Here are some of the reasons your project could be in trouble

In basic terms, design liability means taking responsibility for part or all of a project. In the construction industry, this includes any work being done to new buildings or those being rehabilitated or redesigned. Arguably design liability is one of the most important aspects of any project planning in the construction industry – so what happens if your contractor fails to acquire it? Here are some of the reasons your project could be in trouble in the absence of a design liability contract.

To learn more about what design liability is, skip to our relevant blog

Reasons why your contractor MUST have design liability, no excuses!

Although the name `design liability` implies protection against the way your project looks, it is largely to do with safety, fire safety, and other more important aspects of the design plan as well. Design liability contracts exist to protect buildings and structures, their contents, and the people working inside or entering them in any capacity.

  • Your project may not follow mandatory Building Regulations

Design liability is closely linked to The Building Regulations outlined by the UK government – and the majority of the same safety protocols and precautions appear in both places. Our country’s first set of building regulations was established in the `60s and cover critical areas like fire safety, the prevention of falls & collapse, and duty of care (to name a few). In the absence of a design liability contract, it can be hard to know whether your contractor is following the mandatory building regulations laid out by the UK government, and thus – the safety of your building or structure could be compromised.

To learn more about The Building Regulations (last updated 2010), visit

  • Deciphering liability can be extremely difficult

The clue is in the name here – project designs need a liable person or people attached to them, otherwise, it is not clear who is responsible if part or all of the project fails. Liability is normally assigned to everybody working on the project – including contractors, sub-contractors, engineers, construction specialists, and architects mapping out the design itself. In the unlikely event that an aspect of the design fails, the design liability paperwork can be revisited to check who is responsible for that area, or those areas. Without a design liability contract, it may be difficult to point-blanketly say who has caused the error and to urge them to take responsibility for it.

  • Your contractor may not be adequately insured

If your contractor has not taken the time to explore design liability for your project, you might want to double-check that they have an adequate type of insurance – such as Professional Indemnity (PI) – also known as Design Professional Liability insurance. Contractors (along with sole traders and freelancers) pay an insurance provider or broker a monthly fee to gain protection against design-related errors which may result in monetary loss, damages, and more. The level of insurance a contractor gets will depend on the requirements of their clients. Professional Indemnity (PI) covers things like:

  • If a design plan is flawed
  • If a design is executed incorrectly
  • Negligence – if a mistake is made due to human error, or if part of the design is forgotten about, for example
  • Design copyright infringement (infringement of intellectual property rights)
  • Breach of confidence, or sharing confidential information about the project


  • You could lose money

In the absence of design liability and/or relevant insurance cover, you could lose the money invested in your project should something go wrong with the design process or execution. As previously mentioned, a large part of design liability is assigning responsibility to individuals or teams – and if there is no design liability, the road to claiming back damages or lost money will not be a straight one. This can include money invested directly, money lost through delaying the opening of your business due to extended work, and having to pay more money to fix damages or errors – to name a few examples.

  • Your project design can be copied

Last but not least – design liability law protects the aesthetical look of your design – including the shapes, colours, textures, and the way it is executed. Without it, your project may not be protected against copyright infringement or the infringement of intellectual property rights, and so others are free to copy the hard work completed by you and your designers.

To learn more about design rights for buildings & structures, skip to our relevant blog

Book your FREE feasibility study and cost analysis for an upcoming project today

Looking for a specialist contractor to work on your upcoming project? Get in touch with our expert contracting team today – we’re always happy to take a look at your project! What’s more, we will visit your site to complete a free feasibility study and cost analysis, giving you initial insight into whether your design plans can be done and how much they will likely cost. We look forward to hearing from you!

*Please note that we are not insurance experts, we are construction specialists with a wealth of knowledge on best practise in our industry. If you would like advice on insurance policies, we would recommend getting in touch with a credible insurance broker such as Hiscox or Simply Business.