This article considers some of the competing rights and obligations between you and your housebuilder in relation to defects rectification including common ways housebuilders seek to limit your rights or their liabilities, what you may be able to do to counter these, and when it may be prudent for you to seek specialist legal advice.
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
Drawings and Specs
- Builder: Refuses you copies of drawings and specifications for your property when buying, so as to limit your ability to work out later on if they have complied with their obligations to build in accordance with them.
- Advice: Insist on taking copies (or get creative – just be sure to get them) before you exchange contracts. The next chance to get hold of them might not be until court proceedings are underway.
- Builder: Reserves themselves the right to carry out remedial works at their own cost, without imposing on themselves a corresponding obligation to obtain your reasonable agreement on how this should be done.
- Advice: Standard when buying new homes but BEWARE – these arrangements are designed to sideline you so they decide what, if anything, should be done. Seek specialist legal advice if things are not getting fixed properly or at all.
- Builder: Claims that your rights are limited to the cover provided by your new home warranty (inconsistent with laws of natural justice, probably unfair under Consumer Rights Act 2015, certainly void to the extent it limits remedies available to you under Defective Premises Act 1972, etc.)
- Advice: Seek specialist legal advice if they are telling you that you must refer all disputes over construction issues to the warranty provider and/or that you are bound by their findings whether you agree with them or not.
- Builder: Refuse to share the results of investigations they have commissioned into serious issues with your property.
- Advice: Seek specialist legal advice on whether and how to get your own investigations done.
Ignore Snagging Report
- Builder: Ignores or dismisses your snagging report or other evidence you have obtained of defects in the home as irrelevant.
- Advice: Seek specialist legal advice on how to get them to you or any reports you have sent them more seriously.
Allege Refused Access
- Builder: Alleges that you have refused access and thus lose your right to a remedy.
- Advice: Seek specialist legal advice if this involves significant and serious issues.
- Builder: Gets you to refer issues to your new home warranty provider’s ‘Resolution Service’ or equivalent.
- Advice: BEWARE – your housebuilder could influence your warranty provider to reject legitimate claims without your knowledge. Seek specialist legal advice before accepting a Resolution Report or equivalent that you do not agree with fully.
- Builder: Requires disputes over construction issues to be referred to ‘expert determination’ (‘rough justice’, possibly inconsistent with laws of natural justice).
- Advice: Seek specialist legal advice before committing to the process.
- Builder: Agrees to pay you something for specific issues but only if you sign their settlement agreement that also compromises potential and unrelated claims (effectively stripping you of your new home warranty and rendering the property unsaleable or unmortgagable).
- Advice: Seek specialist legal advice before signing away your rights.
Hold Your Housebuilder Accountable
Remember, your housebuilder may have reserved to itself the right to do remedial works at its own cost rather than paying you to do them, but there is corresponding obligation on them to hold themselves to account. They have a legal duty to their shareholders to minimise their liabilities and maximise profits, which roughly translates to them doing the least they can get away with if you happen to find problems.
They can serve their own interests more easily if they make all the decisions. Your contractual and warranty arrangements are generally designed to facilitate this. If you are finding it difficult to get the housebuilder or warranty company to put right things you consider to be obvious, maybe even serious, or they verbally agree with you that something is wrong but somehow it still doesn’t get fixed properly or at all, this may help to explain why. Holding them to account is your responsibility. It can be difficult to know how to do this effectively, and they are not obliged to give you the answers. Quite the contrary.
The things that are likely to be most effective for you usually come at a cost, in particular professional fees of snagging inspectors, surveyors and others to investigate and report on defects, and legal fees for advice on how to use that evidence to secure a better outcome from your housebuilder or warranty company in what can be complex and adversarial negotiations.
What is at stake is the difference between what they are prepared to offer you, and what you are really due. This might be a lot more than you expect.
Get Professional Advice
The sooner you get your own professional advice, the sooner you will know what is at stake and what you can do about it. This could also save you from losing weeks, months, even years to an attritional and ineffective battle that could have been avoided.
It is vital you get professional help from those who know what works and how to get results. Wingrove Law is a leading specialist in this area and has an exceptional track record of success in helping homeowners get better outcomes from housebuilders and warranty providers. Wingrove Law can help you take back control from your housebuilder or warranty company and help you get what you are due. Wingrove Law will explain clearly what steps you should take, how much it will cost and what you stand to get back from the process, and will guide you expertly through the process from start to finish.