My new-build home has problems, what are my rights?

Read our guide to understand your right to redress if you discover problems with your new-build home.

You’re not alone

With the government proposing to build hundreds of thousands of news homes by 2020, more and more people will be buying a new-build. 

In 2014 alone, 140,000 people bought a new-build home.

While new-builds can provide an affordable and modern home, a recent survey from the National House Building Council revealed that a whopping 93% of new-build home owners reported problems with their homes.

And an impressive 64% of these reported having more than six problems with their new-build home. 

Consumer Code for home builders

The good news is that there is a code of conduct that home builders should adhere to and that you can rely on when making a complaint. 

The Consumer Code for Home builders is an industry-led code of conduct for builders which was developed to make the home buying process fairer and more transparent for purchasers. 

Under the code, builders are required to have a system for dealing with complaints.

The aim of the Code is to ensure that all new-build home buyers are are treated fairly, know what levels of service to expect and are given reliable information about their purchase.

It is also designed to ensure consumers know their rights before and after they move into their newly built home.

Home buyers should also be given details of how to access dispute resolution arrangements in order deal with any complaints.

Representatives from Trading Standards departments and Citizens Advice, along with other professional advisors, sit on the advisory board for the Code.

The Code: What to expect

  • to be treated fairly
  • to know what levels of service you can expect
  • to be given reliable information about your purchase and your rights before and after you move in
  • to know how to access resolution arrangements to deal with any complaints you may have

Who is covered by the Code?

The Consumer Code applies to home buyers who, on or after 1 April 2010, bought a new or newly converted home built by a home builder registered and insured by one of the following home warranty bodies:

  • National House Building Council
  • Premier Guarantee
  • LABC Warranty

The Code’s pre-sale and handover requirements apply to home buyers who are the first purchasers of that particular home. 

The Code's after-sales service applies to anyone who was the initial purchaser of the home but also to any subsequent buyers of that home within the first two years of the initial purchase. 

Warranties

One of the big attractions of buying a new-build home is the peace of mind that comes with the warranty associated with the purchase. 

Most new-build homes have a 10-year warranty for building problems plus a developer’s warranty – usually for two years – for fixtures and fittings.  

Before you exchange contracts, you should receive the following information in your reservation agreement:

  • The name and contact details of the provider of the insurance-backed home warranty that is included in the transaction.
  • A summary of the insurance protection that the insurance-backed home warranty provides.

You should also receive details of the warranty provided by the developer. There should be clear guidance on what is covered and how to make a claim.

Property not ready on time

Builders must give reliable and realistic information about when the home will be finished, the date of legal completion and the date for hand over of the home.

If an unreasonable delay occurs in finishing the home, you have the right not to go ahead with the purchase and get a full refund of your reservation fee.

But be aware that builders will often give estimated timings in contracts - often overly ambitious timings - which can result in two problems. 

The first being that you do move in on time but discover lots of snagging issues (like wonky light switches or incomplete sealant) or the second being that you’re unable to move in on time.

Problems with fitting and fixtures

When you move into a new-build home you may not notice if there are problems with the fixtures and fittings straight away. 

But cumulatively it can be very expensive to fix problems with things like tiling, flooring, light switches and built-in cupboards.

If you discover problems, you’ll need to contact your builder to get them fixed. It was once the case that checks had to be legally carried out at specific points during the build but these regulations have been relaxed.

However the National House Building Council says that properties should be checked between five-six times at key stages of the build.  

You should also be provided with the results of a snagging survey before you move in which should identify if there are any problems.

Be persistent 

If you find that you're fobbed off by a builder when trying to get problems fixed, be persistent. Small problems can add up and be costly, so don't settle for a finish that isn't up to scratch.

Insulation problems

Low energy bills is another big selling point for buying new-build homes, with many builders claiming that new builds can save you up to 50% on energy bills compared to older properties.

Before moving into your home your developer should have carried out an assessment on the energy efficiency on your home. 

If you discover your house feels cold in winter or that your energy bills are higher than expected, you should contact your builder and ask for a re-assessment.

Independent dispute scheme

If you are unhappy with the way your complaint has been dealt with and have exhausted your home builder’s complaint process, you can ask to be referred to an independent dispute resolution service.

You have three months from the date of your builder’s final response to your initial complaint in which to request to be referred to a dispute resolution service. 

Your home warranty body will provide you with an application form and details of any evidence that you’ll need to submit so that your complaint can be referred.

The dispute resolution scheme is run by IDRS Ltd and is called CCHBAS (Consumer Code for Home Builders’ Adjudication Scheme). But be aware that it will cost you £100 (plus VAT) to register your complaint.

Compensation awards

If the adjudicator makes you an award, they may also make a discretionary award for inconvenience - up to a maximum of £250. 

There is a £15,000 maximum award which would include any award for inconvenience. You can’t claim an award for inconvenience alone.

Your builder is required to honour any award made against them. 

You can refuse to accept the award but if you do so any subsequent legal action is likely to take account of the decisions reached by the adjudicator.

Buying a new-build house

To help you navigate the the tricky decision of whether to buy a new-build home or an older property, we've created a helpful guide that highlights the pros and cons. 

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