Single source of responsibility or a series of direct contacts?

Interior designer to directly hire a contractor – where does responsibility lie?

Problem:  Although I work overseas, I have 2 investment properties in Leicester.  One of the properties, a flat just outside the city, was recently vacated by a long-term tenant, and I have now decided to sell. Before I market the flat, I plan to renovate it, so I have engaged an interior designer to undertake the design and also manage the refurbishment works.

The interior designer has said that she would directly hire a contractor to do most of the building work, like plastering, decorations and plumbing work.  How do I make sure that the interior designer takes responsibility for everything she is taking on?  If anything happens to the property, or if someone gets injured doing the jobs, how do I save myself from liability? Should I have the contractor sign the contract with me and the interior designer as well?

Thank you.

Contract types to consider in this case

Response:  The first thing that you must decide is whether you want a single source of responsibility or a series of direct contacts.  Because you are overseas, it does make sense to seriously consider entering into a contract with a single company to design and carry out the works, but there are downsides to this, not least because you will pay a premium for the privilege.

What I would recommend is that you firstly engage the interior designer to carry out the initial design.  The RIBA have a Plan of Work that will assist you in relation to the stages you want the interior designer to cover, for example, up to stage 3, which is up to the concept design.  You can enter into a simple contract for this, including agreeing a price.

Once the concept design stage has been reached and you have signed off the design, you can then invite the interior designer to submit a quotation, based upon her own design, for developing the design through to completion and carrying out the building works.  If you then agree the price, before work is commenced, obtain the relevant insurances (which must come directly from the interior designer), which will include public liability, all risks and professional indemnity insurances, and enter into a suitable design and build contract.  All that said, because you are overseas, it will be imperative to appoint an agent to act on your behalf to oversee the works.


© Michael Gerard 2019

The advice provided is intended to be of a general guide only and should not be viewed as providing a definitive legal analysis.