New build disputes: what can you do?

Buying a new build may seem like a great idea. The property you’re buying is quite literally brand new, it’s been finished to building regulation standards, and the developer is still in the chain so if anything goes wrong, you can get them to sort it out. Right?

Well, no, not always.

Dealing with new build issues is notoriously difficult, and costly. Just like a new car, a new house can have defects, teething problems, and ‘snags’. In theory, and no matter how small the defect, it can be regarded as a breach of contract between the purchaser and the developer. And in the vast majority of cases, small defects can be quickly and easily resolved. The developer will also be eager to make sure their customers are happy – after all, a reputation for building poor quality homes is not something that any developer wants.

However, when things really start to go badly wrong, new build disputes can get very expensive, very quickly.

NHBC warranties

Properties with a 10-year NHBC warranty do have a little extra peace of mind. NHBC is the UK’s primary provider of insurance for new builds. They offer a Buildmark warranty and insurance, making Buildmark something that new homeowners should look out for when they buy. The warranty means that the builder is responsible for correcting any problems or repairing damage if they have not built the property in line with NHBC standards. After year three, the warranty only covers major defects. Anything that would cost less than £1500 to put right isn’t included after those first three years.

What could go wrong?

The most common new build issues include foundation problems, poor quality workmanship and finishing, and structural defects. Usually, defects are pretty minor (known in the trade as ‘snags’) and can be fixed fairly quickly and easily without too much hassle. They’re still considered to be contractual breaches, so even if it’s something relatively small you still have the right to seek a legal remedy such as compensation.

Our property law experts would always recommend that you consult with a legal professional, although bear in mind that for smaller claims you usually won’t be able to recover any legal costs, just compensation for the ‘snag’ and any issues it causes.

Bigger problems, such as foundations or structural issues can compromise the safety of the occupants. They can also cost a lot, lot more than £10,000 to put right. Remember that if your property is covered under an NHBC warranty then the builder is obliged to put any defects right and you’re insured against potential damage to your property.

If the builder disputes the case then you will need to appoint legal representatives to help you fight your case. In more expensive claims it’s more likely that you’ll be able to recover your legal fees, but again, it’s not guaranteed so make sure you weigh up the benefits and outlay of legal costs, and what might happen if your claim is unsuccessful.

We will be happy to advise on the appropriateness or otherwise of using alternative forms of dispute resolution including mediation, NHBC Dispute Resolution Procedures, and arbitration.