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Construction Defects: Your Rights and the Need for Legal Advice

What are the pros and cons of following the procedures laid on by your housebuilder or warranty provider in relation to construction defects? What are the pros and cons of getting professional help along the way? Defects rectification is a complex area. Not knowing what you don’t know could leave you vulnerable to exploitation and unfair outcomes.

Article by Wingrove Law. This is not legal advice. You should satisfy yourself in respect of any arrangements you enter into and seek specialist independent legal advice if unsure.


Limiting Your Legal Rights

Consider the following common ways in which your housebuilder might seek to limit your legal rights or your ability to enforce them, and what you might be able to do to counter this:

No Drawings

Refuse to give you copies of drawings and technical details for your home when buying. You can’t assess whether they have complied with their contractual obligation to build in accordance with them. Insist on getting copies before you exchange contracts. You may not get another chance.

Contractual Exclusions

Contractual exclusion clause for misrepresentations made during the sales process. They can sell you on features your home doesn’t have, with relative impunity. Make written notes of important features discussed or demonstrated and instruct your conveyancer to seek the seller’s confirmation of those details before you exchange contracts.

Dispute Resolution Scheme

Told to refer complaints over misrepresentations to Consumer Code for Home Builders ‘Dispute Resolution Scheme’. Limit their liability to £15k including VAT. Low or no compensation. Extremely high failure rate for scheme users. Don’t waste your time. If it involves serious or financially significant issues between what you thought you were buying and what you got, seek specialist legal advice.

Report Defects after Moving In

Told to report defects to the housebuilder after moving in, and to rely on them to investigate if needed. Minimise their liabilities by letting them decide without reference to you what if anything should be done to put things right. Get specialist legal advice on what investigations to undertake, and how to negotiate effectively for a better outcome.

Refer to Warranty Provider

Told to refer complaints over defects to warranty provider. They may be able to covertly influence the warranty provider to reject legitimate claims, and whose rejection you are more likely to accept. For serious or financially significant issues (or if you don’t know the full extent of defects in your home), get specialist legal advice on what investigations to undertake, and how to negotiate effectively for a better outcome.

Warranty Provider Findings

Told that the findings of your warranty provider are binding on you whether you agree with them or not. To (potentially unlawfully) exclude your legal rights to insist on a proper (or any) fix. Seek specialist legal advice before accepting a Resolution Report or similar if you don’t agree with it fully.


Time for Professional Legal Help?

Professional help may be necessary to ensure you get an acceptable outcome particularly in relation to serious or extensive defects. It might be the difference between getting something or nothing.

The cost of professional advice should be weighed against what is at stake. Cost of repairs may be a large part of what is at stake but there could also be indirect costs that, whilst not always quantifiable, could still be very valuable (or costly) depending on whether you suffer or avoid them.

The following is based on common feedback from new build owners:

Do It Their Way

  • Pros
    • Avoid spending money on professional fees.
  • Cons
    • Sidelined from the decision-making process.
    • Verbal promises reneged on.
    • Inadequate fixes imposed.
    • Legitimate claims rejected or ignored.
    • Continuing loss of amenity, discomfort and inconvenience from unresolved defects.
    • Uncertainty, especially over what is at stake and the potential cost to you of not getting things put right properly.
    • Frustration and stress.
    • Delays.
    • Feeling of powerlessness.

Get Professional Help

  • Pros
    • Empowered to make informed decisions and participate meaningfully in the process to ensure things are put right properly.
    • Avoid being taken advantage of by ensuring you get binding and enforceable commitments.
    • Know what should be done and make sure it gets done.
    • Avoid potentially substantial losses associated with having to put things right yourself.
    • Reduce the amount of time spent living in unfit accommodation.
    • Certainty of knowing what is at stake (could be a lot more than you might expect), what to do about it, and what to expect at every stage.
    • Peace of mind from being empowered, knowing things are moving forward, and knowing what not to waste time or energy on.
    • Regain some control over timescales.
    • Empowered to get what you paid for and achieve a fair outcome. Sense of closure and satisfaction from knowing you have seen things through to their proper conclusion.
  • Cons
    • Incur professional fees. Fees are usually predictable and affordable to most. Recovering fees from housebuilder or warranty provider may be possible with the right approach.


Can you Afford Professional Legal Advice?

Can you afford not to? Are you unsure whether to seek help for your particular situation? For a free, no obligation initial discussion with Geoff Peter, a senior solicitor and founder of Wingrove Law.