Readers offer their specialist knowledge on matters various: a QS stands up for QSs, a solicitor fills a gap in a legal piece and a commuter appreciates the view

QSs fight back

I am writing with regard to Sir Michael Latham’s article on cost consultants (21 April, page 24). To suggest that the QS profession “whisper[s] in the client’s ear, ’take the lowest bid,’” is not only a very sweeping statement but also it demonstrates a lack of understanding about the job that we do. Undoubtedly he has done some sterling stuff in his time but this kind of inflammatory rhetoric is undeserved and frankly wrong.

Not all QS firms recommend the lowest tender on price alone, as first past the post is not always right. At Robinson Low Francis we focus on out-turn cost. Of course, much depends on the quality of information on which the tenders are based. If there has been sufficient time to develop a brief and then design the scheme, having taken into account option studies for the client’s benefit and a proper period for the tendering process, then we will take a view on the tender returns alongside the team being put forward in terms of experience and suitability together with knowledge of the contractor’s supply chain.

I can assure Building that by and large our profession does not practice what Latham preaches!

Steven Barker, senior partner, Robinson Low Francis

When is a home uninhabitable?

Tony Bingham and Ben Worthington (6 May, page 44) clash on how broadly the Defective Premises Act should operate. Tony is in favour of the act being amended so it applies to refurbished properties, whereas Ben - and no doubt his client - would retain the status quo. There is, however, a further constraint on the operation of the act that is not always appreciated. The act only requires a person who takes on work to ensure that it is “fit for habitation” when completed. This sounds similar to a “fit for purpose” obligation (as implied in Ben’s article), but in fact it is radically different. A house may be “fit for habitation” even if it is not “fit for purpose”.

Fitness for habitation is an ill-defined concept, but it could refer to problems such as the plumbing not working, a giant hole in the roof or even (as in Jenson vs Faux) a flooded basement. But what if the carpet is the wrong colour, the walls have been given a patchy paint job or the tiling in the bathroom is crooked? Cosmetic issues do not usually render a house unfit for habitation, even if they affect the property’s value - and annoy the owner. So just because a property has snags, this does not necessarily engage the operation of the Defective Premises Act. Showing that a defect affects habitability is a further hurdle that homeowners need to clear in relying on the act.

Julian Bailey, solicitor, CMS Cameron McKenna

Lighten up!

In reference to “Solar panels to halve carbon emissions at Blackfriars station” (11 May,, I think this is a nice idea, there is loads of roof space for solar arrays and it is good to see energy-use reduction.
Passing through Victoria yesterday, the concourse looked bright and airy, but they still had the lights on - defeating the point of cleaning the new roof!

Mark Owen via