A domestic client is anyone who has construction work carried out for them that is not done in connection with a business - usually work done on their own home or the home of a family member. A client who has construction work carried out for them that is done in connection with a business is a commercial client.
Many domestic clients will have little or no skills, knowledge or experience of managing a construction project. This is why CDM 2015 passes the duties of a domestic client to certain other dutyholders. However, a domestic client can still have an important role in making sure that the people they bring in to do the work are capable of doing it in a way that avoids harm to anyone. They can do this by asking simple questions about their track record in managing health and safety risks and allowing sufficient time and money in the agreed contract for the work to be carried out safely.
A domestic client’s duties automatically pass to the contractor (if it is a single contractor project) or the principal contractor (for projects involving more than one contractor). However, on a project involving more than one contractor, a domestic client can choose to have a written agreement with a designer (eg architect) they may have engaged with to manage the project, to carry out the domestic client’s duties. As well as taking on the client duties, this designer will then be the principal designer for the project.
They do not need to have any skills, knowledge or experience of managing construction work. Provided a domestic client makes reasonable enquiries of those they bring in to carry out the work about their awareness of health and safety risks and their track record in managing those risks, they should be able to rely on them to carry out the work in a way that avoids harm.
Guidance on what a domestic client needs to do to carry out their duties on both commercial and domestic projects under CDM 2015 is available on the roles and responsibilities of a domestic client page.