Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeal has ruled in favor of a contractor and against the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in a dispute over the manner in which the contractor must test for the presence of asbestos in the properties belonging to the Housing Executive.
In 2012, the Housing Executive awarded a £1 million contract to Healthy Buildings Ltd to check for the presence of asbestos on the properties belonging to the Housing Executive. The contractor was to following the Health and Safety Guidance in performing the tests, which presume the presence of asbestos as a method of testing. In early 2013, however, the Housing Executive unilaterally changed the testing method to require the contractor to test every room in every house for the presence of asbestos.
Healthy Buildings initiated litigation against the Housing Executive, arguing that the unilateral change in the testing method enlarged its costs by almost doubling them and requiring Healthy Buildings to hire many more workers. Healthy Building estimated that one inspector could test 12 properties a day, but under the new instructions from the Housing Executive, it would take two workers to test just 7 properties a day.
This week, the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal upheld the lower court and the adjudicator who both ruled in favor of Healthy Buildings. The judges on the appeal panel reasoned that the change in the method of testing inevitably enlarged Health Buildings’ responsibilities under the contract, which could only be done if the contractor agreed to such a change and received additional compensation for the extra work.
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