Defective Housing Act Explained

In the early 1980s, a fire occurred inside a Airey house which caused extensive damage. Most of the internal wall materials had been destroyed leaving the PRC structure exposed to reveal a number of worrying structural defects. Serious cracking was found in the structural PRC columns caused by inadequate protection of the embedded steel reinforcements and chemical changes to the surrounding concrete.

Defective Airey House PRC Column
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Further investigations by BRE showed that a number of other house types built during the postwar rush to build new homes, exhibited similar defects, that would most certainly lead to eventual structural failure.
In 1984 the Government introduced legislation to compensate owners who had bought affected houses from the public sector under right to buy schemes.  It was deemed that the the severe structural defects could not have been identified during surveys at time of purchase due to the nature of the properties.

The Housing Defects Legislation (now Part XVI of the Housing Act 1985) allowed the Secretary of State to designate particular dwelling types as inherently defective, and empowered local authorities to operate a Scheme of Assistance for all eligible owners, either by way of buy back or by way of repair.

An extract from an early House of Commons debate on this issue can be found HERE

Over 28,000 households were aided under the Scheme of Assistance, with only a small number of eligible properties not taking part.
Most ‘repairs’ were carried out using the system of repair which was licensed, inspected and certificated by PRC Homes Ltd, a subsidiary of NHBC, but not all owners chose this route. Some local authorities carried out ‘partial repairs’ to their own stock which unfortunately did not remove all the defective PRC structural elements from the dwelling, This type of local repair did not provide bonafide PRC certification, meaning that in many cases the property remains unmortgageable to lenders.

PRC Homes LTD closed down in 1996. Houses repaired under the licensed scheme were generally considered by some lenders to be acceptable for mortgage lending purposes with a standard NHBC warranty.”
The legislation did not allow for any improvement during repair, but superficially, the appearance of a reinstated houses changed dramatically, despite key identification characteristics such as window and door openings, and roof pitches, remaining constant.

It should again be stressed that the presence of a new brick skin alone on a defective house, does not in itself signify that the house has been repaired under an approved PRC repair scheme. PRC repair Certification is only issued to homes repaired under the PRC repair scheme and the certification document should always be viewed/ verified prior to sale or purchase.

Surveyors who encounter a property that is  designated defective are advised to check if the property has been repaired in accordance with the PRC Homes Ltd licensed system, and certificated as such.

Which Properties Were Designated Defective?

Thirty house types were eventually designated as inherently defective, in separate legislation for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The subsequent BRE research programme into all non-traditional housing revealed no further house types which met the Government’s criteria for designation.

Property TypeBRE Report Ref

Ayrshire County CouncilP010
Blackburn OrlitP024
Boot Pier and PanelP026
Cornish Unit Type IP039
Cornish Unit Type IIP040
OrlitP091/ P092
Reema Hollow PanelP101
Tarran Temporary BungalowP115
Tee BeamP117
Ulster CottageP122
Unity Type IP127
Unity Type IIP128


We constantly hear of cases where a surveyor has incorrectly identified a property as defective when it is not. This has even occurred with BISF Houses. The defective housing act primarily covers houses of PRC construction, however some surveyors appear to assume that all non-traditional properties are defective, when obviously they are not.

If your prospective property has been listed or identified as defective by your Surveyor, he/she may well suspect that the build type of your house is one of the construction types listed above. If your house is a BISF House or of a construction type not on the list, it will be up to you to convince your surveyor or lender otherwise.

Saying that, it shouldn’t be too difficult, as most surveyors are willing to accept than an error has been made, particularly when they are unsure of the construction type themselves.

Owners of defective properties who need to undertake PRC repairs in order to sell their properties or owners who do not possess a PRC repair certificate (One may never have been issued), should contact an approved PRC repair specialist for further advice and assistance. In some cases, if your property has been correctly repaired, these companies may be able to re-inspect your property and if the works have been carried out correctly, they can recertify your property for a fee.

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