Helping UK new home buyers
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If you have problems and they are not quickly resolved by the Site Manager, there is a procedure it is advisable to follow, especailly if your complaint is contested by the house builder. The NHBC will require evidence of what has or has not been said and done and the more detailed written records you keep the more likely your complaint will be resolved.
Emergencies such as a water leak, must be attended to quickly to prevent further damage. It is not sufficient for the builder to ask you to turn off the mains water stopcock (although you should do this if you can). During normal site hours, a plumber should attend to your problem within ten minutes. Outside normal hours the builder should have provided you with emergency contact numbers (normally plumber and electrician) which you can contact for help. If you cannot get hold of anyone, arrange for your own plumber or electrician, but satisfy yourself it really is an emergency before doing so, otherwise you may have difficulties getting the charges reimbursed by the builder.
Once you have approached the site manager and/or sales advisor and/or contacted the builder’s regional office (which you followed up with a letter!) and you are not satisfied with the response, you will need to step up your complaint to a new level. Generally you should give the site team around a week to make contact with you regarding your complaint and a further week to arrange for the work to be carried out.
Before you write to complain again, it will save you time if you contact both the site manager and sales advisor and inform them of your next course of action should your complaint not be attended to within two days. It will also demonstrate that you have been proactive and reasonable in giving the builder every opportunity to attend to your complaint.
When you write to the builder and send a copy of your letter to the NHBC. This shows the builder that you are serious and that you will not rest until the problem is rectified. The NHBC will record your complaint and if they get several from the same builder, they will increase the builder’s warranty premiums to reflect the increased risk of a potential claim.
A letter of complaint generally can be split into three distinct paragraphs.
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.
You should be polite but firm, and you should not take personal issue with any of the house builder’s staff, unless they have been rude and/or obstructive. Sadly, this can happen, often when provoked!
This is a dirty word in house building circles. All too often people claim compensation for the slightest inconvenience (even taking a day off to provide the builder access). As soon as compensation is mentioned to a house builder, the shutters go up. Quite frankly, in all but the most extreme cases, you are at best wasting your time, but at worst you could alienate yourself to such an extent that the house builder’s staff no longer wish to deal with you! Only directors are normally authorised to agree to compensation and then in only extreme circumstances such as a major water leak. You will have to demonstrate financial loss, disruption/inconvenience and be able to show that the builder was negligent in some way. You can make a claim for compensation using the Consumer Code for Home Builders Independant Adjudication Scheme
This is a means where the builder can pay "compensation" without an acceptance of liability or blame. It usually takes the form of some "extra works" such as fencing, turfing, paving, wall or floor tiling or even a garden centre voucher. This is a good way of reaching an amicable compromise but should only be made if there has been a record of ongoing problems with the new home and/or the builder has not dealt with them as expeditiously as he perhaps could have.
Example template letters can be found by clicking the links below. Please feel free to cut, paste and edit them to suit your circumstances. The Red text should be changed for your own details.
If all else fails write to the NHBC and make a claim under the Buildmark warranty. This should be used as a last resort. If you follow letters 1 to 5 you should get your defects resolved. However, the NHBC do offer a Resolution service for disputes with house builders. Please not that you may be required to pay a fee before the NHBC will investigate your claim. This is refunded if the claim is found to be valid. Last year, of the 7382 complaints received, the NHBC found 70% in favour of the homeowner.
NHBC Guidance notes on Resolution service [Download pdf]
NHBC Claims Charter [Download pdf]
If you still cannot get satisfaction and after every other avenue has been explored, you may decide to consider taking legal action for compensation against your house builder in the County Court. Before doing this you must obtain all the information the house builder has about you and your home. To do this you need to make a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act.
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