The Laws of Malta reserve certain professional activities, related to the construction industry, to persons who hold a warrant of “perit”, awarded by the state for this purpose. These activities are reserved to warranted professionals generally because of the need to protect the public interest, particularly in relation to issues of public health and safety, such as the structural integrity of buildings and structures, and public sanitation issues, but also the protection of the urban environment and of cultural heritage. The “perit” owes a duty of care towards his client, but also towards society and the environment in general.
Article 1638 of the Civil Code of the Laws of Malta, for example, establishes that should a building or “a considerable stonework perish, wholly or in part, or be in manifest danger of falling to ruin”, the perit and the contractor, are held jointly responsible. This responsibility covers events that occur within fifteen years after the date of completion, and even includes situations that arise from “defects in the ground”. The perit is generally responsible for the design and for the supervision of the construction of buildings and works, and the contractor for the execution of the works; however, it would be up to the Courts to decide on the relative attribution of blame.
Articles 1031-1033 of the Civil Code, in addition, also establish personal liability for any damage caused through negligence, imprudence or lack of the appropriate attention to the tasks commissioned, on the basis of tort.
These liabilities could, therefore, only be carried by a “natural” person, that is, by the perit, on a personal basis. Article 10 of the Periti Act (Chap.390 of the Laws of Malta) provides, however, for the possibility that a professional partnership be set up, through a private agreement, so that two or more professionals agree to assume joint and several liability, for any loss or damage occurring as a result of the action of each professional partner. This means that the professional partnership assumes the responsibility for the action conducted by any of the partners, in the name of the partnership. However, if the professionals form a limited liability company under the Companies Act, (Chap. 386), the company per se cannot be found liable for the professional capacity of the professionals; the latter would remain personally responsible and can be sued in their own name.
The Code of Police Laws, (Chap.10), puts the onus (Articles 97 and 100), on the perit to ensure, inter alia, the provision of proper damp proof courses in the construction, the provision of sanitary facilities, and proper connection to the public sewers.
The Development Planning Act requires the submission of an application for development permission to be submitted by a perit on behalf of the client. Other pieces of legislation, for example, require that the valuation of immoveable properties, fair rents and agricultural leases be carried out by a perit. The Cultural Heritage Act requires that interventions on heritage buildings can only be carried out by periti who have specialized conservation and restoration skills. The Building Regulation Act requires that a perit certify that the construction of a building has been carried in conformity with the Building Regulations.