The rise in new build defects and disputes
New build disputes are becoming increasingly common. We regularly receive calls from buyers who feel aggrieved when builders fail to deliver on their promises. Buying a new build property should be an exciting moment in your life, but for many it has turned into a nightmare of frustration, disappointment and worry.
It seems that once a builder has taken your money the company loses interest. Concerns about defects and snags go ignored as the builder concentrates on its next development, leaving buyers without adequate redress.
Many people suffer in silence. Others attempt to make sense of the confusing landscape of consumer codes and warranties, but remain unable to force the builder to address their concerns.
the problem of new build defects and disputes has been recognised is Parliament, with MPs calling for government to set up a special independent ombudsman service to deal with it.
This follows high profile publicity about the quality of homes being built by major developers such as Bovis. And in a recent survey of new home buyers an astonishing 98% reported experiencing defects or snags.
Ineffective consumer codes
There are consumer codes in place, but these are inadequate. The All Party Parliamentary Group was critical of the various codes and the lack of obligations placed on home builders. This is, they say, a reflection of the imbalance of power between builders and consumers. The consumer codes seem to have been formulated so as to restrict, limit and contain complaints. The language used in the codes is according to one observer, ‘the language of exclusion’.
Consumer codes and complaints processes are particularly unsuitable for defects that might be termed ‘snags’. This has resulted in a significant gap in consumer redress, with the average award in 2016 being less than £1,000.
So what can frustrated new build buyers do?
One option is to take legal action.
However, if the financial value of the case (which is what we have to concentrate on) is less than £10,000 then even if the case is won, there is no entitlement to recover legal costs. This is because disputes with a value of under £10,000 are referred to the so called ‘small claims court’ which does not allow legal costs to be recovered.
So while solicitors may be able to help, the costs of doing so could make the proposition of fully contested court proceedings uneconomic for most new build buyers.
How we can help with new build defects and disputes
New build buyers sometimes feel there is value in a limited amount of legal work being carried out. The builder can be sent a solicitors’ Letter of Claim threatening court proceedings if matters are not satisfactorily resolved. The buyer can then follow it up themselves in the small claims court if an acceptable settlement of the dispute isn’t reached.
This can be an effective strategy as it sends the builder the clear signal that you are not going to tolerate a shoddy service. You may find that your case goes from being at the bottom of a builder’s list of priorities towards the top.
Most builders will wish to avoid being taken to court. Not only will it require them to incur legal costs but any adverse judgment could damage their business.
However there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the response you want. Some companies are badly managed, under resourced or simply not interested in customer care.
A fixed fee new build defects and disputes service
We have developed a fixed fee new build defects and disputes scheme which is particularly suitable for legal disputes which fall within the jurisdiction of the small claims court.
the service includes:
- considering your summary of defects and snags
- reviewing key documents such as the contract, any applicable code of practice and any warranties.
- drafting a Letter of Claim for your approval
- submitting the Letter of Claim
- reporting back to you when a response has been received and advising on further options open to you
The charge for this service is currently (July 2018) £250 plus VAT.
Contact us if you wish to proceed
If you wish to take advantage of our new build defects and disputes fixed fee service then contact us on 0808 139 1606 or email us at [email protected]ell.co.uk