Helping UK new home buyers
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There are several things that you may wish to complain to your house builder about including:
We will concern ourselves with the procedure for complaining about defects in your new home, as these are by far the most common complaint received by house builders.
In the first instance
It is important that you address your complaint in the correct way. Act quickly. Normally it is sufficient and easiest, to either speak to the sales advisor or site manager on site or failing that, call the builder’s regional office. The NHBC and most house builders prefer you to write a letter to record any problems with your new home. This has two advantages; it records the complaint at the builder’s office and it also limits the number of trivial complaints, as most people cannot be bothered to write a letter of complaint! It also postpones the date the complaint was received.
Before you make a complaint you should have a very clear idea about what you see as the defect, and how and what you expect to be done to rectify it.
Collect evidence to support your claim. Take photographs! Keep a diary to record what happened and whom you spoke to and what was said or agreed. Be aware, it may take the builder several attempts to correct a defect and each one should be recorded to support any later claim.
Make sure you are aware of your rights and the builder’s obligations under the NHBC Buildmark cover.
It is very important to give the builder your contact telephone numbers so arrangements can be made for access for inspection and carrying out remedial work.
Normally most defects are inspected by a site manager or customer care manager before they arrange for trades to attend as they will be able to see what is involved and what materials or other resources may be required. Some site managers are on site very early (around 7.30am) and it may be possible for you to arrange an inspection before you leave for work. The site manager should be flexible and you should also try to be. It may be a good idea to call the site manager the day before to remind him of the appointment.
During the site manager’s (or customer care manager’s) visit, your complaint will be investigated and you will be informed what work needs to be carried out and given an idea of how long it will take to complete the work. Be polite and offer a tea or coffee. You can also ask for any advice you may need during the inspection.
It is normally considered reasonable (with the exception of emergencies) that the required works be carried out during normal working hours. Typically this is between 8am to 5pm weekdays. You should therefore either arrange to be at home on the date agreed or arrange for someone else to be there. Once the date for the work has been agreed you MUST contact the builder as soon as you are aware, should be date need to be postponed. If the builder has made arrangements for several trades to work in your home on a certain day, and access is not available, you will probably then be dealt with as a low priority.
Clear the area(s) or room(s) where the work is to be done. The extent of this will depend on the work, but it is a good idea to move all furniture in the area out of the way, especially if the floor covering is being lifted. Clear away all other items such as children’s toys and ornaments and keep any pets under control, preferably in another room! You would be wise to remove any valuables as a precaution. When the site manager and tradesmen call, offer them a hot drink. This a friendly gesture, often appreciated! Please be aware that some operations will be messy and this may be unavoidable. The builder should make every effort to keep dust and dirt to an absolute minimum.
Sometimes new homeowners leave a set of keys with the sales office at the weekend so that any works or inspections can be made in their absence. This can be helpful as quick items of work such as re decorating a door edge, can be completed without the new homeowner having to take time off work. However, it can be a potential source of problems should there be any alleged damage (or loss) to personal possessions, furniture or carpets. On one occasion, a purchaser complained that the tradesman had been watching the cricket on his television. When the builder asked how he knew that, the purchaser said he found paint on the remote control buttons!
If you are prepared to leave keys, make sure the site manager or builder’s representative accompanies anyone working in your home at all times. Also ask that your keys are kept secure at all times and not left on the site manager’s or sales advisor’s desk. Ensure that it becomes the builder’s responsibility to check that your new home is secure after works are completed.
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