Don’t help out the neighbours! (part one)

Court of Appeal upholding the Technology and Construction Court’s decision

“cautionary tale” – the Technology and Construction Court

Don’t help out the neighbours! Or if you do, do it with at least professional skill and care, is the sad but not really unexpected conclusion you have to come to from the Court of Appeal upholding the Technology and Construction Court’s decision in the case of Lejonvarn v Burgess and another [2017] EWCA Civ 254.

Even the TCC said this case was a “cautionary tale” of something that started innocently enough but escalated and eventually soured.

Basia Lejonvarn (the professional consultant) was a Netherlands-registered architect living in London. Mr and Mrs Burgess (the clients) were her friends. Over time the friends did various favours for each other.

No discussion of a formal contract

In 2012, the clients obtained a preliminary design and quotation for works to their back garden. The proposed scheme included substantial earthworks and landscaping costing over £200,000. The consultant suggested the project could be completed within a smaller budget and began providing design and project management services for the project, but without entering into, or even discussing a formal contract or payment.

It was suggested at trial that she had planned to charge for detailed design work later in the project, if the project had reached that stage. Ms Lejonvarn apparently also recommended and vetted potential contractors and other professionals for the project, prepared design for both pricing and construction purposes, attended site regularly to direct, supervise and inspect the works, their timing and progress, prepared a budget and advised the clients on the contractor’s applications for payment.

What a good friend you would think!

However, as the project progressed, the clients became concerned about its cost and the quality of the work.

The friends’ relationship deteriorated and the clients engaged an alternative landscape designer to complete the project.

They then claimed against Ms Lejonvarn for the increased cost of completing the project, including remedial works.

The maximum value of the claim was £265,000.

This article is concluded in Don’t help out the neighbours! (conclusion) »