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 building defects that arise with new builds include;
- Foundation defects which are liable to cause subsidence if left untreated;
- Structural defects involving walls, floors and ceilings;
- Poor quality workmanship and finish.
However, 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.
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 ‘remedy’.
In most cases, homeowners are generally able to resolve the dispute through negotiation with the builder, sometimes with the involvement of the NHBC.
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 (April 2017) £15,000.
If all these avenues fail, the last resort of the homeowner is generally to involve the Courts.
If the dispute relates to matters that have a financial value of less than £10,000 then we would normally recommend that people pursue the case themselves, using the small claims court procedure. This is because legal costs cannot usually be recovered in the small claims court, so it is rarely cost effective to retain solicitors to conduct a claim.
However, where the financial impact of building defects exceeds £10,000 then consulting a solicitor is an option worth considering.
The Property Litigation Team at Slee Blackwell Solicitors LLP can offer an initial case assessment where the losses suffered by you exceed £10,000.
We can also look at funding options open to you, including No Win – No Fee.
Call us on 0808 139 1606 or email us at [email protected]