Civil Litigation

My House, My (Shoddy) Castle

The housing situation in Britain reached crisis point long ago. Many of those moving into a home of their own are buying new houses, a move that is supported by the government through schemes such as the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme. But what if your dream new build turns out to be a nightmare of shoddy workmanship and numerous faults? Recently, Bovis Homes, one of the biggest housebuilders in the country was forced to pay £7 million to repair badly built homes have complaints from owners. Does this revelation mean more regulation is needed to ensure newly built homes meet a certain standard? And what can buyers do if their home has numerous serious defects?

How is the new homes industry regulated?

All developers and builders must comply with a number of regulations, the most important being the Building Regulations.  Regardless of how beautiful your new home looks, if it does not meet certain standards such as being structurally sound, having good wiring, meet environmental and fire safety standards, and provide access for those with disabilities, then it has not been constructed in accordance with the standards set out by the Building Regulations.

Are there warranties available to protect me from ‘snagging’ issues?

Yes.  Snagging issues include small faults such as doors that are hung unevenly, roughly finished paintwork, minor cracks and creaky floors.  All new build homes come with a ten-year warranty, which remains with the house not the owner, and buyers should try and obtain a further two-year warranty from the developer.

Who do I complain to about snagging issues and major defects in my new build home?

The Consumer Code for Homebuilders sets out that builders must provide a vehicle with which to deal with any complaints from buyers of new build homes.

Is there a penalty for breaching the Building Regulations?

Contravention of building regulations is a criminal offence. The sanction is a fine of up to £5,000, with the possibility of a fine of up to £50 for each day that passes following conviction until the work is put right. 

Can I sue my builder for negligence?

Compensation claims for negligent building work are usually either for financial loss or personal injury.  To prove that the builder of your new build home was negligent you must show that they:

  • owed you a duty of care;
  • they breached that duty; and
  • the breach caused you harm (in the form of an injury or financial loss.

Before taking a claim to court, you should use the existing complaints handling process set out buy the Consumer Code for Homebuilders.  If this fails to resolve the matter and the builder belongs to a professional organisation such as The Federation for Master Builders, you can try to rectify the problem by contacting them.

If you get nowhere, an experienced solicitor can assist you with making a claim for compensation and specific performance of the contract (ie fixing the defects).

Is there a time limit on claiming compensation for negligence on the part of the builder?

Generally, you must bring a claim for negligence within six years of discovering the fault.  However, under the Latent Damage Act 1986, claims for latent defects, ie “defects caused by a fault in design, materials or workmanship, that existed at the time construction was completed but was not apparent at the time of completion” the limitation period is extended.

If your new build has snagging issues or latent defects, contact an experienced construction or residential property solicitor on Solicitors Guru today. 

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