Buying a home is a huge investment, so naturally we all want to feel our money is well spent. When we buy something new, there’s often an expectation that it will be perfect and trouble-free – after all, laws such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 are in place to protect consumers and give us rights to refunds if a product is faulty.

With new-build homes, it’s a more complex picture. The Consumer Rights Act doesn’t apply to homes, but there are other protections in place to support home buyers. Homes are built to strict standards and must meet building control regulations before they can be sold. In addition, most new builds come with a ten-year warranty which requires the home builder (also referred to as the developer) to meet more standards relating to the overall condition and standards of every home. Despite this, there are many different aspects to a new build home – not all of which can be fully controlled. This can lead to teething trouble, either during the purchase process or when you first move in, so it’s good to know support is available should you need it.

Is there a fault?

The first question to consider is whether there is a fault with your new home, or whether what you’re experiencing is a normal part of the running-in of a new build. Take a look at our guide on What to expect from your new home.

Sources of support if problems arise

Because there are so many different aspects to buying a new home, there are different sources of support depending on your situation. Generally speaking, these fit under:

  • The marketing/sales and purchase process
  • Build quality and snagging
  • Conveyancing/legal services

Much of this support is available through codes of practice. Although many builders who register with the main new home warranty providers, NHBC, LABC Warranty, Premier Guarantee or Checkmate, must comply with the Consumer Code for Home Builders, some builders registered with these bodies may fall under a different consumer code scheme – check with your builder which scheme applies in your case. Many of the protections provided are similar but you will need to know which code applies should you wish to make a complaint.

Marketing/sales and purchase process

The Consumer Code for Home Builders (the Code) sets out requirements home builders must meet in the marketing and selling of their homes. This gives you some protection from the moment you start looking at potential homes.

Builders must ensure you are given enough pre-purchase information to make a suitably informed purchasing decision, that marketing information is truthful and that you are made aware of any associated costs such as management fees. You must also be given a clear reservation agreement, including information about what monies may be retained if you decide to cancel your reservation after the 14-day cooling off period. For full details of all the requirements, download the relevant guide to the Code, depending on when your home was reserved:

For new homes reserved up to and including 31/12/23

For new homes reserved up to and including 01/01/24

If you believe the Code has been breached, you can raise a complaint via the Code’s free Independent Dispute Resolution Scheme (IDRS). The IDRS is designed to give consumers access to free and impartial redress which is relatively simple and quick to resolve. The Code Scheme applies to complaints which have been made up to two years from the date of legal completion.

Build quality and snagging

Most new-build properties are protected by a 10-year warranty. Typically, for the first two years after occupation, builders are responsible for rectifying issues, often referred to as snagging. If your warranty is with NHBC, LABC Warranty, Premier Guarantee or Checkmate and covered by the Code, your builder is obliged under the Code to have an accessible after-sales service and a customer enquiry and complaints process, which is often your first port of call.

For homes reserved from 1 January 2024, builders must allow you, or a professional adviser you choose, to carry out a pre-completion inspection. This allows for snags to be spotted and rectified (or repairs agreed) before completion.

Warranty bodies under our Code offer a free dispute resolution service for additional support if you are unable to resolve issues directly with your home builder.

For the remainder of the policy, your warranty provider is responsible for handling structural issues – you can find out what is typically covered by a warranty in our article – how do home warranties protect your home? If you are unhappy with the service you receive from your home warranty provider, you can raise a complaint through their own complaints procedure. Warranty providers are also regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and consumers can raise complaints via the free, impartial dispute resolution service offered by the  Financial Ombudsman Service.

Conveyancing/legal services

Legal advice is a critical part of the home buying process and under the Code, the home buyers’ choice to select their own solicitor or conveyancer must not be restricted. Builders are permitted to recommend professional advisors, and this can be advantageous to both the buyer and the seller if the recommended solicitor or conveyancer knows the site and associated paperwork as it can speed up the process for all parties. Your builder must tell you about any fee, commission, or other benefit they may receive for introducing a professional adviser.

Conveyancers and solicitors are bound by strict rules which include that they must operate in the best interest of their client (i.e. the home buyer in this case, irrespective of whether they have a separate relationship with the home builder).

If you have concerns about the quality of service you have received from your solicitor or conveyancer, you can raise a complaint with the Legal Ombudsman.

Legal action

Consumers can also choose to take legal action, particularly for disputes that exceed the financial limits of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes.

Although going through an ADR scheme does not prevent you from taking legal action, please be aware that if you accept a decision on a claim made under an ADR scheme, you may not be able to proceed with further legal action. Even in cases where you refuse to accept the award or decision made, any subsequent legal action is likely to take account of the outcome of your complaint.

In some cases, Trading Standards may bring a case under the Consumer Protection Regulations (which is criminal law) if they believe a home builder is in breach of those regulations. This is unlikely to result in direct redress for the consumers affected but provides a strong deterrent to poor practice.

Practical tips

When buying a new home, you should keep a record of any documents you are given, particularly those describing the property, along with a record of any verbal assurances or other information along the way. Your record of the various stages of the transaction may prove very important to you later should queries or disputes arise. See here for practical guidance and support for buyers of new build homes.

For more information on the support available, visit our news and videos section. To find out more about how to raise a dispute via the Code, visit our complaints section.

This is an updated version of our blog ‘What support is available for new home buyers?’

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