Melinda Parisotti alarms contractors and consultants unnecessarily in her rticle "Pleasure and punishment" (4 April, page 48).
Damages for distress and inconvenience in building cases were first awarded by Lord Denning in Perry vs Sydney Philips (1982). He allowed "modest compensation" to a house purchaser who relied on a negligent survey. Thereafter, the courts limited such awards to about £500 per person per annum.

In the early 1990s, the then official referee, His Honour Judge Bowsher, awarded more realistic damages in two surveyor's negligence cases, Srett vs Carr & Neave and Watts vs Morrow, of £700 and £8000 respectively. The Court of Appeal reduced the latter award, reset the limit at £750 per person per annum and emphasised that such damages are recoverable only for physical discomfort caused by the breach and any distress related to that discomfort. Something more than Parisotti's "trembling lower lip" is required.

Farley vs Skinner, although something of a one-off (the purchaser specifically asked his surveyor if the house would be affected by aircraft noise, the surveyor negligently omitted to warn him that it was directly under the Mayfield aircraft "stack" and the claimant had to live with the consequences), confirmed these principles and the courts continue to award "modest" compensation of about £1500 per person per annum.

So, far from amounting to "hefty additional sums", for those claimants who have to live with defective work and face the upheaval of remedial works, the level of damages is seen as woefully inadequate and certainly not such as to land those in breach in "deep trouble" as Parisotti suggests.