6th April, 2023

CDM 2015 Domestic Clients And Work On Residential Projects

The requirements for domestic projects and domestic clients are a little different under the 2015 version of the CDM Regulations. Unlike CDM 2007, CDM 2015 applies in full to residential projects. In this post, we look at what a domestic project is and how CDM 2015 applies.

CDM 2015 Domestic Clients And Work On Residential Projects header image

If you are wondering if CDM 2015 applies to residential projects or projects involving domestic clients, the short answer is - yes - it does.

But if you thought that CDM didn't apply, then the confusion probably comes from the previous version of the CDM regulations, CDM 2007.

Under the previous 2007 version of the CDM regulations, domestic projects were exempt from notification, key duty holders did not need to be appointed, and domestic clients were exempt from CDM duties.

But all that changed under the new CDM 2015 regulations.

Unlike CDM 2007, CDM 2015 applies in full to domestic projects. There are still some exceptions, but for the most part, you should treat domestic projects the same as any other project. There are, however, some subtle differences in how to treat a domestic client.

What is a CDM domestic client?

One of the first things you should know is how to define a CDM domestic client. Because it is very common to assume that the client is a domestic client on every residential project.

And this is not the case.

A domestic client, under CDM, is someone who is having work done that is not connected to any business. So you will usually find a domestic client is someone having work done on their own home, or the home of a family member.

"domestic client" means a client for whom a project is being carried out which is not in the course or furtherance of a business of that client;

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Interpretation

For example, if Danny was having a bathroom refurbished at home, or an extension for a playroom for the children, they would be classed as a domestic client. The work is on their home, and not in the course of any business.

But, if Danny was having a home office built, or an extension for a childminding business, it would not be domestic. It would be connected to a business. Even if the work was done at their home, Danny would not be a domestic client under CDM.

two people looking at construction design

If Jay was building a house to live in, they would be a domestic client. But, if that house was going to be sold or rented out on completion, then Jay would not be a domestic client.

So, a residential project is not always a domestic project. And a client on a residential project is not always a domestic client.

Still confused? Just remember, providing the work is done in the client's own home, and not in connection with a business, they are a domestic client.

CDM and domestic clients

Now we know what a domestic client is, how are they different from any other client under CDM?

Well, domestic clients are treated differently under CDM. Client duties still need to be carried out, but in this case, not by the client.

construction work on a domestic project

Domestic client duties are transferred because domestic clients are not expected to be familiar with the requirements of CDM 2015. So other people involved in the project, like the designers and contractors, are expected to do more.

CDM duties do apply to domestic clients under CDM 2015, but since they might not know how to follow CDM, their duties are usually transferred to another member of the project team.

Client duties are automatically transferred from a domestic client to:

Domestic clients might not know (and are not expected to know) to appoint the roles of principal designer and principal contractor. It is important to be aware that on domestic projects, you may be appointed automatically.

(2) If a domestic client fails to make the appointments required by regulation 5—

  1. the designer in control of the pre-construction phase of the project is the principal designer;
  2. the contractor in control of the construction phase of the project is the principal contractor.

CDM and residential projects

Let's have a quick recap of what we have covered so far: Not all residential projects will have domestic clients. If a project/client is connected with a business, they are not a domestic client.

Some projects on a house, or a housing development, for example, will be connected to a business.

If a residential project is connected to a business, then the client is not classed as a domestic client under CDM. In this case, residential projects should be treated like any other project under CDM.

Even residential projects with domestic clients (sometimes referred to as domestic projects) must still comply in full with CDM 2015. If the work meets the threshold for notification, it must be notified to the HSE. If the work involves more than one contractor, a principal contractor and principal designer must be appointed.

worker going into a house

The only difference is that the domestic client won't be notifying the HSE or appointing duty holders themselves. Someone else needs to do it - usually the contractor.

You may have extra duties on residential projects with domestic clients because some of the client duties get transferred to other members of the team.

CDM and working for domestic clients

If you are a duty holder on a domestic project (e.g. a designer, a contractor, a principal designer or a principal contractor), you have the same requirements on domestic work as any other construction project.

You may even have additional requirements because the duties of the domestic client are transferred to the principal contractor (or contractor if only one). These duties can also be transferred to the principal designer in writing.

As we have already discussed, domestic clients are not expected to know the ins and outs of CDM. However, if you are working for a domestic client, as a contractor or a designer, you are expected to know about and comply with CDM 2015.

Contractors working for domestic clients

In your role as a contractor, you have contractor CDM duties that you must comply with. And those duties that the client escaped from (as a domestic client) transfer over to the contractor most of the time, so you have the CDM client duties to comply with as well!

principal contractor

The CDM regulations state that domestic client duties will automatically pass to the sole contractor or principal contractor unless there is a written agreement for the designer to coordinate and manage the project.

Domestic client duties automatically transfer to:

If you are the only contractor, then the client duties transfer to you. You also still have many of the same duties as the principal contractor would have, including producing the construction phase plan and managing health and safety o site, but without needing to manage other contractors.

Read the free CDM duty holder guide for contractors to find out more.

If you are a contractor working under a principal contractor, then you just need to comply with the usual CDM contractor duties and don't need to worry about any extra client duties being transferred to you.

Principal contractors working for domestic clients

If you are the principal contractor (automatically or appointed), then the domestic client duties transfer to you.

They are not your only duties. The principal contractor is responsible for overall CDM compliance on site, everything from inductions, welfare, and producing the construction phase plan, to managing the work on site and ensuring it is carried out safely.

Find out more about the principal contractor role in our free guide.

Usually, a principal contractor is appointed in writing by the client. But on domestic projects, the principal contractor does not need to be appointed in writing. It usually happens automatically. If a domestic client fails to make the appointment in writing, then the contractor in control of the construction phase of the project is automatically the principal contractor.

Designers working for domestic clients

As a designer, your duties under CDM are going to remain more or less the same. But you may be automatically appointed as the principal designer.

Get the free CDM duty holder guide for designers to get up to speed with your duties.

Principal designers working for domestic clients

If more than one contractor is involved in the project (including subcontractors, and contractors that are only involved for a short time), then a principal designer must also be appointed.

This is the same rule that applies to all construction projects. However, on domestic projects, you don’t need to be appointed in writing.

client signing appointment paperwork

If a domestic client fails to appoint a principal designer in writing, then the designer in control of the pre-construction phase is automatically the principal designer.

Use the free CDM guide for principal designers to check your CDM duties.

Domestic client duties won't automatically transfer to the principal designer, but domestic clients can also choose to have a written agreement for the principal designer to carry out their client duties. If this is the case, you will have the client duties to discharge on top of your own.


Want a quick refresher? Download the free toolbox talk for CDM domestic clients.

share on twitter share on facebook share on linked in share by email

This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

Need CDM Help?

Get CDM support on your construction projects with our free guides and support packs for all duty holders.

CDM Support

Recent posts like this...

When Does A Principal Designer Need To Be Appointed? image

When Does A Principal Designer Need To Be Appointed?

You need to appoint a principal designer on all construction projects involving more than one contractor (including subcontractors). This requirement applies to any type of construction project, including domestic (where the appointment can happen automatically).

Read Post
CDM Guide For Developers And Housebuilders image

CDM Guide For Developers And Housebuilders

How does CDM apply if you are both the client and the builder? For developers, CDM can seem like a lot to handle when multiple CDM roles apply. So if you're developing a plot or doing up a house to sell, and managing the project yourself, here's our CDM guide for developers and housebuilders.

Read Post
CDM Notifiable Projects Working Days And Person Days Explained image

CDM Notifiable Projects Working Days And Person Days Explained

Notifiable CDM projects are construction projects that you need to tell the HSE about. If your construction project meets certain criteria - based on project length and the number of people on site - you have to notify the HSE, and your project is notifiable.

Read Post

Spend less time on paperwork.
Start with the free plan today.