Rights, regulations and repairs: help with your home, new or old

6 min read
June 18, 2024

When you become a homeowner, it’s often after years of saving and dreaming. But what happens when the dream turns out to be a nightmare?

The UK housing market has changed dramatically in the last decade – as have the homes we live in.

For a start, spaces are getting smaller and smaller. (According to one study by the University of Cambridge, the UK has the smallest homes of any European country). The removal of space standards in the 1980s, the high value of land and low number of homes built by local authorities, means millions of home owners are feeling the squeeze. 

As well as size, quality is also a bleak picture. According to a recent all-Parliamentary report, around 300 people a week were dissatisfied with the repairs and quality of building work when they moved into their new homes. A whopping 93% of people reported problems to their builders. The rising costs of repairs and increased demand for help with issues like damp and mould also means that some councils are only able to support emergency repairs – so standards continue to decline.

On top of sky-rocketing mortgages, it feels like we’re a nation of people getting struggling to get by in tiny homes that are falling apart around us. However, when it comes to buying a home, you’ve got loads more rights than you may think. From building guarantee schemes to insurance policies, here’s a quick guide to your rights.

Building regulations

If you’re buying a brand-new property, you will have all kinds of checks to make before you move in. Same goes for prospective buyers of a pre-loved property – especially if you are thinking of doing some repairs or making structural changes.

The good news is the vast majority of home building companies subscribe to the Consumer Code for Homebuilders. This is an industry code of conduct introduced after years of bad publicity for home builders. It was designed to make the process of buying a new home fairer and more transparent for purchasers. There’s a dispute resolution service too, just in case you find you’ve got a problem you can’t sort out.

There is also the National House-Building Council (NHBC) – an independent organisation that runs a register of builders of new houses. It’s pretty comprehensive and all members need to sign up to various rules and quality requirements. NHBC run a scheme called Buildmark which can help you in some circumstances if a builder you’ve contracted goes bust. Under the scheme, the builders will be responsible for any necessary repairs for the first two years. After that, the provider of your warranty (part of the scheme) is responsible for the next 3 to 10 years.


Many mortgage providers insist on you taking out a warranty when you buy a new-build and these policies can be essential. But of course, given how much we care about our homes, lots of people make complaints about them.

Warranties are regulated which means you can go to the Financial Ombudsman if you really do hit an impasse with the complaint. Check the documents to see who the underwriter is first, though. And scan, photo or keep a copy of the documents.

The good news is Resolver can help you get started with any complaint about your home – from the quality of the repairs to claims or issues with your mortgage. There are a couple of things to bear in mind, though, to help things go smoothly.

New builds

Owning a brand-new property means no baggage and less hassle – in theory, it’s a blank canvas that you can make your own. Any new build home will have things that we take for granted pre-installed, like central heating, lots of plug sockets and insulation.

Despite this, many things can and do go wrong. The quality of new build homes is in sharp decline. So there are some things to bear in mind and problems you may want to prepare for.

  1. Before you buy, check if the housebuilder is registered with the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB). Around 80% of developers in England are registered, or are currently going through registration. If they are registered it means that they are committed to a well-defined set of standards called the New Homes Quality Code (NHQC).
  2. Whether it’s mould and damp, or cracked ceilings and wonky walls, new builds can and do come with structural issues. The key to getting things sorted is getting organised: make sure you keep records of when you noticed problems and photograph the damage as soon as it appears.
  3.  Keep the lines of communication open. It is worth checking-in with your builder and insurer to ask about what you should do if any problems arise. You should also let the builder or insurer know before you agree to any repairs – and get quotes in writing. Remember, even if you they fix a problem you report, you can still make a complaint.
  4. Unfortunately new builds aren’t immune to serious problems, like the property becoming dangerous due to its structure, wiring or wider health issues like severe damp. If this occurs you should ask the builder or insurer for an urgent plan that will cover somewhere for you to stay while they fix the problem, gives a clear plan for a resolution of the issue and with an estimation of long it should take.
  5. Your housebuilder must be given the opportunity to rectify any issues with the property before you take your complaint further. But if they don’t The New Homes Ombudsman will deal with problems in the purchasing or post-sale experience processes.

Old homes

Old houses continue to be popular for many buyers – whether for character or cost reasons. But as any owner of a ‘pre-loved’ home will tell you, there are often many unexpected surprises waiting for you. Our top tips for prospective buyers of an old home are:

  1. Don’t skimp on the survey. We appreciate you might be worried about costs and being gazumped but it makes sense to get a proper survey done – especially if the property is older. Surveyors have their own regulatory body – RICS – if there’s a dispute. So don’t just go with the (often basic) mortgage survey requirement – get the best checks you can to save you all kinds of stress later down the line.
  2. Remember those surprises we mentioned? From leaky roofs to poor insulation that haemorrhages heat, an older property can sometimes be a black hole for your cash. Be realistic about unexpected costs and put aside a significant chunk of money in a bank account specifically for home costs and repairs that might come out of the blue.
  3. Get a comprehensive insurance policy. Older homes need quite a bit of upkeep so make sure you tell your home and contents insurer everything they need to know about the property. Shop around each year for a better deal – you don’t get anything for loyalty. And if you get hit by a serious problem – like subsidence or repeated flooding – seek specialist help. There are organisations and specialists who can help advise you for free should you find yourself in a nightmare scenario.

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