New build defects

What can you do about new build defects?

Moving into a brand new home is for most families a happy and exciting time. However as with other areas of life, things do sometimes go wrong and the dream of owning a new build home can quickly degenerate into a nightmare.
It often surprises people who have moved into a new build and encountered problems when they discover just how little consumer protection they have. In particular, property (including new builds) is exempt from the protection offered under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act.

Common new build defects

Common building defects that arise with new builds include;

  • Foundation defects which can cause subsidence if left untreated;
  • Structural defects involving walls, floors and ceilings; and
  • Poor quality workmanship and finish.

NHBC warranty

Homeowners buying a property with a 10 year NHBC warranty do receive some additional cover. NHBC is the country’s main provider of insurance for new homes, providing protection for homebuyers in the form of Buildmark warranty and insurance.
During the first 2 years under the NHBC scheme the builder is responsible for putting right any damage caused by their failure to build the home in accordance with NHBC Standards.

In years 3-10, the policy will only cover major defects. Minor defects (anything which would cost less than £1,500 to fix) are excluded.

Legal liability for snags

Defective workmanship in new build homes ranges from minor issues that do not affect the normal use of the property (often referred to as snags) through to more serious problems (such as issues with the design of the foundations for example) which may compromise the structural integrity of your home.

A snag, despite being minor, is still a defect and is still a breach of contract by the builder. Your sale contract with your builder imposes obligations on your builder to construct your new home using acceptable levels of workmanship and suitable materials, in accordance with Building Regulations, plans and specifications. If the work is defective, your builder is in breach of contract and you are entitled to seek a legal ‘remedy’.

In most cases, homeowners are generally able to resolve the dispute through negotiation with the builder, sometimes with the involvement of the NHBC.

The CCHBAS scheme and new build defects

Another option is to use the Consumer Code for Home Builders Adjudication Scheme, known as CCHBAS.

You will need to read the rules of the adjudication scheme carefully, but it requires claims to be made within 3 months of the builder’s final response to your complaint, which in turn must have been made within two years from the start of the warranty.
The maximum you can claim under the scheme is currently (September 2020) £15,000. There is no longer any fee payable when submitting a claim.

The New Homes Ombudsman

It is worth considering whether the New Homes Ombudsman service can help you.

Taking legal action

If you would our help in dealing with a new build dispute, then a popular funding arrangement is to set a limited fee of £750 plus VAT to cover the initial work. When that fee limit is reached you can set a fresh limit if you would like us to take further action on your behalf. We will also be happy to consider, at that point, whether your case is suitable for No Win, No Fee funding. However, it is important to note that we are unable to offer No Win, No Fee funding where the value of any claim is under £25,000.

Setting a fee limit gives you control over your budget and allows you to focus our efforts on the issues that are of particular importance to you. This might include:

  • Scheduling the major defects
  • Reviewing the contractual position
  • Corresponding with the builder/developer/NHBC
  • Putting forward settlement proposals

If you are interested in using us to deal with your new build dispute on an initial limited fee basis call us on 0333 888 0404 or email us at [email protected].

Picture of Zoe Harker-Smith

Zoe Harker-Smith

Picture of Zoe Harker-Smith

Zoe Harker-Smith

Share this post:

Share this post:

Call the Slee Blackwell helpline on 0333 888 0404