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How to fix problems in a new build home

New homes hold the promise of worry-free home-ownership. Unfortunately, that's not always how it turns out. We take a look at how to fix problems in a new build home.

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Problems in a new build home

Since 2005, on the instigation of the government, the House Builders Federation (HBF) and NHBC – the new homes warranty scheme – have commissioned an annual survey on satisfaction with new homes.  In 2017/ 2018, it was reported that 86% of buyers were satisfied overall with the quality of their new home and 87% would recommend their builder. Less flattering is that one third (34%) of buyers said their new home had more problems than they had been expecting.  The survey also revealed that 42% said they had reported more than 10 problems to their builder and more than a quarter (26%) said they had reported in excess of 16 problems. This reflects a worsening trend since 2015.

Many buyers realise only too late that while a property is likely to be the most expensive thing they ever buy it is one of the least-protected by consumer law. With most goods, be it a cabbage or a toaster, you have the right to reject them and demand your money back if they fail to live up to expectations. Property, however, is exempt from the Sale and Supply of Goods Act, with the result homebuyers are stuck with faulty properties.

Get a New Build Snagging Survey

Whether you're about to complete on a new build home or have moved in to find problems, we can connect you with an independent on-site snagging inspector today.

Get a snagging survey quote online

What can you do about problems in a new build home?

If your home is less than 10 years old – even if you are not the first owner – it is almost certainly covered by a warranty. Home-builders would struggle to sell a property without a warranty, as mortgage-lenders usually insist on this. In 80% of cases this will be the Buildmark policy provided by NHBC. Other policies include BLP, LABC, Premier Guarantee and Checkmate. Most of these policies work on the same principle:

  • During the first two years, the policy covers most defects, except for matters of wear and tear and minor defects such as plaster drying cracks. During this period you should contact your builder directly in the first instance. If your builder is no longer in business, however, you should contact NHBC.
  • In years 3-10, the policy will only cover major defects, such as structural or weatherproofing problems. During this period the minor defects are excluded – anything which would cost less than £1500 to fix, in the case of the NHBC
  • From year 11 onwards you will have to rely on your own insurance policy

You should also be aware that policies, such as the NHBC’s, may not cover all design and construction problems – for these, your only option may be to sue under the builder’s contract.

Before the initial two year period expires, you should give your home a thorough going-over and write a final report of any outstanding problems to your builder.

Snagging surveys

One option is to employ a surveyor to undertake a ‘snagging survey’ to list defects which need attention and send copies to you and your builder. The advantage of using a professional firm is that it is likely to spot more defects than homeowners would typically report themselves. Given the number of complaints and calls for help we get from visitors to our website, we have teamed up with one of the best known snagging inspectors in the UK, New Build Inspections. Unlike many other snagging companies, they never work for developers or builders so can retain their independence. Their prices start from £299.  At its best, a snagging survey will help apply pressure on a builder to sort out defects

Get in touch with our professional onsite snagging inspectors today

Next steps

Even armed with a professional snagging report, there is no guarantee that your builder will take any notice of problems during the first two years. If your builder does not respond satisfactorily your next move should be to escalate your complaint to the NHBC – or other warranty provider – directly and as soon as possible. 

You will fare better if:

  • You make sure you keep records of all communication including copies of all letters, emails etc. Even if your builder is available on site and is generally amenable to face-to-face requests, it is a good idea to correspond by letter or email from time to time to make sure there is a record
  • You can demonstrate you have pursued the matter with your builder exhaustively before approaching your warranty-provider (though keep in mind the two and ten year warranty periods)
  • You haven’t tried to fix the problem yourself, which your warranty-provider may consider to have invalidated your warranty
  • You have an independent expert confirming the problems, such as a snagging survey inspection report
  • At all times, you have taken an approach of polite persistence, not anger or abuse (no matter how difficult this may be)

If you don’t receive any satisfaction from your warranty provider you could:

  • Complain internally to NHBC or other warranty provider – make sure you follow their complaints procedure
  • Make a claim about the warranty provider to the Financial Ombudsman Service (this has the advantage of being free, but it could exclude you from being able to make a court claim. The FOS is also not specialised in the area of new homes as it mostly deals with financial services rather than new homes insurance)
  • The warranty provider may suggest that you try alternative dispute resolution (mediation) as a cheaper alternative to court action
  • Issue a claim in court – but you will need to be aware of the strict time limits of bringing a court case and will need a lawyer who is specialised in new homes claims
  • You could also contact an organisation called the Consumer Code for Homebuilders. All homes with a warranty issued by NHBC and Premier are covered by the code. (BLP and other providers have their own similar Codes). The body has a dispute resolution service which can make awards to homebuyers of up to £15,000. It doesn’t, however, seem to handle many complaints. In 2013, it considered just 22 of them, nine of which were rejected and three of which were withdrawn before adjudication. Just nine succeeded in part and not a single claim succeeded in full. Homebuyers using the service claimed a total of £133,845, but only £26,512 was awarded to homebuyers

Other options

If you are still unsatisfied with your builder’s response after contacting your warranty provider you can either take a legal route – which is certain to be expensive – or you could also consider some form of direct action in an attempt to shame your builder into taking your complaints seriously. Homebuyers have, for example:

  • Contacted the press – though some local newspapers are reliant on advertising from developers and may not want to upset them
  • Hung banners from their home, visible from the sales centre, with such slogans as: “Don’t buy a home here until you have spoken to me”
  • Set up websites and Twitter accounts to advertise the problems to potential buyers. You should take great care, however, not to make statements which are libellous and could result in legal action against you. You must stick to the facts. A simple tweet with a photograph of the problem, with a tag saying “still waiting for this to be fixed in my new home”, and naming the developer, could be as effective as anything.

Before pushing the nuclear button, however, you should be aware:

  • You could be upsetting your new neighbours and lowering the value of your new home. Content can hang around on the internet for years – even if the problems are resolved
  • When you come to sell you will be asked by the buyer’s solicitor to fill in a form disclosing any disputes you have had connected with your property

Never fail to apply a common sense test. For small problems, such as badly-painted walls or minor cracks, it might be better to give up pursuing your builder, get out a paint brush or some filler and sort out the problem yourself, rather than spend time and energy fighting your builder – even if it leaves you dissatisfied with the service you had expected. 


Leave a comment (10)* Required

  1. SeanSean

    I’ve moved in to a new build (refurbished flat) about 3 months ago and been having problems. I’ve had no gas to the cooker hob, toilet is plumbed into the hot water – so boiler fires up and the extraction unit is not working. I’ve sent many emails and messages and nothing still has been done.

  2. Tracy MelroseTracy Melrose

    I have lived in a shared ownership property for 7 years, a window defect was noted on the initial snagging issues, this has been on going for 7 years, the window company have been out to fix it 4 times, it’s still not fixed, I have not contacted them during covid as no one would come out, the issue is still a problem, I contacted them on Monday they told me it’s not their responsibility, what are my rights please

  3. Jeremy MitchellJeremy Mitchell

    Within 6 months of moving in to a new build, our block paved drive way has started to sink around a drain. I reported this to Bellway, approximately 6 months ago and am still awaiting an inspection and subsequent repair. I’ve continued to contact them, via email, for updates, Bellway have now stopped responding altogether. The company that were to carryout the inspection/repair was Hughes Brothers. I would not recommend purchasing from Bellway, due to their awful customer services and poor choice of contractor

  4. Shunia BegumShunia Begum

    We have bought our new build and just recently after moving in we have come across the fact that the plot and garden shape which was shown to us is not the same as how we have received it. Can we dispute this?
    This information was given to us by the land register and conveyed to us by the solicitors however me and my husband are not exactly happy that we lost some of our garden.
    Please advise?

  5. Kathleen AinsleyKathleen Ainsley

    Does anyone answer these questions?

  6. Janet HensonJanet Henson

    I wanted to let you know about a homebuilders Linden homes?
    We live at 62 Daveys Elm View paignton TQ4 7FA Devon.
    We have just found out by accident that half of our 6 year old house isn’t insulatied. The builders have cut corners and while they insulatied the loft space in the front of the house, the back of the house isn’t. We found out when the bathroom fan broke and replaced it. The back of the roof space/house hasn’t got entrance it’s completely sealed. Our neighbours house also hasn’t been insulatied. You can bet the whole estate is the same. In this day and age where we are trying to find ways to protect against climate change. Letting heating go straight out isn’t good for us, cold and extra cost or the planet. Can you please advise me where I can go to get help?
    Thanks Janet Henson 07460895498

  7. Kathleen AinsleyKathleen Ainsley

    We feel we have been mis sold our plot as at time of signing for our house we were not told or shown plans of our garden ( the reason why we moved )with a 1/14 gradient. The plans of garden were truncated and only showed 1/3 of the garden.The site manager told us he would request the full plan to show us, this never happened. The builders have agreed this happened but would not admit so in a court of law.The house was 1yr+ behind schedule and still they never requested full plan of our garden from the architect. We were given full plan 3 weeks or so AFTER moving in and requesting an explanation of how we ended up with a field with a hill. It has cost us 16k+ to make it into the garden we were told we would have by the site manager( the highest ranking person we ever met/ had any contact with.)
    Can we claim for miss selling?
    The original plan submitted to our council has no gradient shown. We think our builder changed it to a gradient so they could dump tons of waste products( which we have removed ) instead of disposing of it off site.
    Can we do anything?

  8. Donna CharlesworthDonna Charlesworth

    I purchased a new build 18 months ago my warranty has been extended due to covid till fed 2022.
    I have an ongoing problem with water damaged from the family bathroom which has still not been resolved by the company and do not always respond to my emails which is very frustrating.
    I have only been able to use my family bathroom a total of 4 months at most out of 18, and I’m still unable to use it now due to ongoing problems.
    Who can I make a formal complaint to…….

    Donna Charlesworth

  9. PaulPaul
    Whats going to happen in a few years when property gets to over say £300,000 lots of first time will never have a big enough income to be able to pay mortgage repayments

  10. James McCreadyJames McCready

    I am concerned with the mortar joints around my property which was built back in 2002.It appears to be very sandy to the touch and in places the mortar has disintegrated.I am concerned that in time it will only get worse and I do feel that the builder (Bovis)did a bad job.
    Can I make a complaint to them or to some professional body to take up my case or do you think I have left it too late and will need to get the job done at my own expense.
    Please advise.

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