Rock the house – help with your home, new or old

5 min read
March 15, 2017

15/03/17 When you buy a new home, it’s often after years of saving and dreaming. But what happens when the dream turns out to be a nightmare?

The housing market has changed dramatically in the last decade – as have the homes we live in. For a start, we’re having to squish ourselves into our flats and houses more tightly. According to a study by the University of Cambridge, the UK has the smallest homes (by floor space) of any European country.

around 300 people a week were dissatisfied with the repairs and quality of building work

The average new build property covered just 76 square metres compared with almost double that amount of (137 square metres) in Denmark. Another victory for those pesky Vikings then.  The same study also found that over half of homes were falling short of minimum modern space standards.  (sadly, a guide, not a law).

And once we’ve moved in, the picture is also isn’t that cheery. 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.

Based on those reports, it’s easy to think we’re a nation of people getting struggling to get by in tiny homes that are falling apart all around them. Is it really that bad?

Your rights if things go wrong

Actually, you’ve got loads of rights when it comes to you buying a home. From building guarantee schemes to insurance policies that cover you’re for a range of surprises. Here’s a quick guide to your rights.

If you’re buying a brand-new property, it makes sense to do a few checks before you move in. 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.

Next up is 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 the builder goes bust. Under the scheme, the builders are responsible for repairs for the first two years and after that, the provider of your warranty (part of the scheme) is responsible for the next 3 to 10 years.

you’ve got loads of rights when it comes to buying a home

Now we aren’t the biggest fans of warranties in the world here at Resolver. Lots of them aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. However, 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

It’s a blank canvas that you can make your own! Owning a brand-new property means no baggage and less hassle. The building will have vital things that we take for granted pre-installed, like central heating, lots of plug sockets and insulation. But things can and do go wrong. And if they do…

  1. Take a deep breath. It’s a nightmare dealing with mould, damp, cracked ceilings and wonky walls. But the key to getting things sorted is getting organised. Keep records of when you noticed problems and photograph the damage.
  2.  Keep the lines of communication open. No matter how annoyed you get, make sure you keep things as calm as you can (remember you can still make a complaint even if the problem is fixed). Check with the builder/insurer before you agree to any repairs of your own, though – and get quotes in writing.
  3. If you’re worried that the problem is getting serious, like the property is becoming dangerous due to its structure, wiring or there are wider health issues like severe damp, then ask the builder or insurer for an urgent plan to cover where you’ll stay while they fix the problem, what the plans for a resolution are and how long they’ll take.

Old homes

Feel that space! And that character! Yes, old houses continue to be popular for many buyers. But as any owner of a ‘pre-loved’ home will tell you, there are often many unexpected surprises waiting for you.

  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 if there’s a dispute too. Don’t just go with the (often basic) mortgage survey requirement – it’s actually your responsibility.
  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, though – 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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