30 Jan How to fix problems in a new build Home
New homes hold the promise of worry free home ownership. Unfortunately that's not always how it turns out.
Problems in a new build home
Since 2005, on the instigation of the government, the House builders Federation and NHBC have commissioned an annual survey on satisfaction with new homes. In 2015, it was reported that 86% of buyers were satisfied overall with their new home. Less flattering is that 27% of buyers said their new home had more problems than they had been expecting. The survey also revealed that 35% said they had reported more than 16 problems in a new build home.
Many buyers realise only too late that while a property is likely to be the most expensive thing they ever buy, it is one of the least protected by consumer law. With most goods, you have the right to reject them and demand your money back if they fail to live up to expectations. Property however is exempt from the sale and supply of goods act with the result home buyers are stuck with faulty properties.
What can you do about Problems in a new build home?
If your home is less than ten years old- even if you are not the first owner, it is almost certainly covered by a warranty, as mortgage lenders usually insist on this. In 80% of cases this will be the buildmark policy provided by NHBC. Other policies incude Zurich, Premier Guarantee, Checkmate, LABC. Most of these policies work on the same principle.
During the first two years, the policy covers most defects, except for matters of wear and tear and minor defects such as plaster drying cracks. During this period you should contact your builder directly in the first instance. If your builder is no longer in business, however, you should contact NHBC.
In years 3-10, the policy will only cover major defects, such as structural or weather proofing problems. During this period the minor defects are excluded. Anything which would cost less than £1500 to fix, in the case of NHBC.
From year 11 onwards, you will have to rely on your own insurance policy.
You should also be aware that policies, such as the NHBC’s may not cover all design and construction problems. For these your only option may be to sue under the builders contract.
Before the initial two year period expires, you should give you home a thorough going over and write a final report of any outstanding problems to your builder.
One option is to employ a surveyor to undertake a snagging survey to list defects which need attention and send copies to you and your builder. This will cost from £250 upwards and is likely to result in more defects being reported than home owners would typically report themselves. At its best, a snagging survey will help apply pressure on a builder to sort out the defects.
Even armed with a professional snagging report, there is no guarantee that your builder will take any notice of the problems during the first two years. If your builder does not respond satisfactorily your next move should be to escalate your complaint to the NHBC, or other warranty provider as soon as possible.
You will fare Better if;
You make sure you keep records of all communication including copies of all letters, emails. Even if your builder is available on site and is generally amenable to face to face requests, it is s good idea to correspond by letter or email from time to time to make sure there is a record.
You can demonstrate you have pursued the matter with your builder exhaustively before approaching your warranty provider ( though keep in mind the two and ten year warranty periods ).
You haven’t tried to fix the problem yourself, which your warranty provider may consider to have invalidated your warranty.
At all times you have taken an approach of polite persistence, not anger or abuse.
If you don’t receive any satisfaction from your warranty provider you could;
Complain Internally to the nhbc or other warranty provider. Make sure you follow their complaints procedure.
Make a claim about the warranty Provider to the financial ombundsman service ( this has the advantage of being free, but it could exclude you from being able to make a court claim. The FOS is also not specialized in the area of new homes as it mostly deals with financial services rather than new homes insurance.
The warranty provider may suggest that you try alternative dispute resolution (mediation) as a cheaper alternative to court action.
Issue a claim in court – but you will need to be aware of the strict time limits of bringing a court case and will need a lawyer who is specialised in new homes claims.
You could also contact an organisation called the Consumer Code for Homebuilders. All homes with a warranty issued by NHBC or Premier are covered by the code. The body has a dispute resolution service which cam make awards to home buyers of up to £15000.It doesn’t however seem to handle many complaints.In 2013, it considered just 22 of them, nine of which were rejected.
If you are still unsatisfied with your builders response after contacting your warranty provider you can either take the legal route, or you can consider some direct form of action in an attempt to shame your builder into taking your complaints seriously. Home buyers have for example;
Contacted the Press – Though remember many newspapers are reliant on advertising from developers and may not want to upset them.
Social Media – Be careful with what you tweet or advertise on social media as it could result in liable cases.
Before you consider any of these options, you should be aware.
You could be upsetting your new neighbours an lowering the value of your new home.
When you come to sell you will be asked by the buyer’s solicitor to fill in a form disclosing any disputes you have had connected with your property.