Problems with the NHBC Warranty
Expert Property Advice
We are independent building surveyors who have carried out building survey on all types of propeties over the years, including new build houses. We have first hand experience of dealing with NHBC and NHBC Warranties and can offer you advice. Freephone 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat.
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NHBC Warranty, a general misunderstanding
Over the years we have been involved in a number of cases with problems with the NHBC Warranty. This is because partly there is a misconception by most clients of NHBC Warranty as to what the NHBC Warranty actually is.
The main thing that customers think the NHBC offer is a guarantee over ten years for anything at all that goes wrong on a new build property that is purchased with an NHBC Warranty / Guarantee (more about whether the NHBC is a Warranty or Guarantee later).
This is simply not correct. As we understand it, the NHBC will we believe confirm this if you phone them (and be patient on the phone because it does take sometimes take quite a bit of time to get through to the NHBC). The NHBC will advise in the first two years that the responsibility for any problems with your new building is with the builder or developer that built the property, although the NHBC will offer a mediation service (much more about this later on) and in the third to tenth year the NHBC will offer a warranty (note not a guarantee) only on the structural elements of the property. This is our understanding of matters.
NHBC not prepared to look at the work
We spoke to the NHBC about this and they offered their mediation service, which they explained does not relate to our consumer rights but relates to the builder building to the build mark. We asked them whether they were prepared to come out and see the work and they advised that they would not at this stage. This unfortunately meant that they were only prepared to talk about the matter whilst the home owner was left with the heating not working. The decision was therefore made to carry out the plumbing repair and of course once the plumbing repairs had happened neither the builder nor the NHBC were happy to get involved as they advised that they needed to see the building before any work was carried out.
NHBC Warranty customers unhappy
We can give various instances where we have dealt with customers that were simply not happy with the NHBC Warranty. This has been for a range of problems from a central heating in a brand new house that had had the microbore central heating pipes put in poorly (the plumber that we asked to inspect them said that many of them had been hand bent) which closed the bore of the pipe and stopped the water from transferring around it, meaning that the heating wasn't working.
We have also been involved in a problem with a new property, again with an NHBC Warranty, where the drains fell towards the house, which obviously is quite a problem when you are trying to get waste water away.
We have been involved in several condensation claims, where there have been construction problems that have caused condensation, everything from insulation not being consistent to a heat exchange system that simply wouldn't vent the property appropriately.
Mediation service, is it worth it or should you just take legal action?
Let us talk further about the mediation service that the NHBC would offer. In the instance that we were involved in there was a problem with the central heating in the house, which was not working. The builder concerned had advised that they didn't consider it to be his problem, the plumber that had been called out to look at the property said the problem was that the pipes to the central heating had been bent very badly and had effectively been closed up, not allowing the hot water to pass into the radiators or through the system.
More unfortunately, the back part of the bend tended to be inside the wall. The matter cost several thousand pounds to rectify and involved draining down the system, opening up some of the walls and putting new pipework in. Remember this is all on a brand new heating system in a brand new property that was less than two years old.
What do you do if something goes wrong with a property that has an NHBC Warranty on it?
We have mentioned earlier that the NHBC offer a mediation service. Our question is, is it worth it or should you just take legal action?
In the problems with houses that we have been involved in we generally recommend not to take mediation service as we are concerned with the close relationship that the NHBC has with the builders that partly fund it. We may be completely wrong on this and the NHBC may be totally independent, but we do feel that if you are going to have a mediation service on a property then it should be an appropriate independent professional, such as a building surveyor or architect or civil engineer, or someone from the Chartered Institute of Building Services for a services problem.
The problem we have had is the NHBC are not prepared to look at the problem
As the heading says, the biggest problem that we have had when dealing with these methods is the NHBC are not prepared to look at the problem. We have managed to get the original builders / developers out that built the properties to come and have a look at them but we have not managed to get the NHBC to come and have a look at the problems, and we do feel that unless the problem is looked at and analysed and research carried out on it and investigations then there is very little that the NHBC can do with regard to the technical matter of the problem, which is usually the main issue.
In a previous article we talked about a problem with a heating system where the pipe bends were blocked and the difficult situation that we were put in by the NHBC when they were not prepared to come and look at the property. We then had to advise the client that as the winter was coming they needed to fix the heating system and that we recommended them to proceed. Unfortunately the builder, although they came to visit the property, didn't consider the heating to be a problem. So, the building owner was left with a brand new property which had a big bill of several thousand pounds on for alterations to the central heating system that should never have had to be carried out. Unfortunately in the end the decision was made that the costs of going to court and the time that would be expended would not be a good used of time for that particular client.
Is the NHBC Warranty worth the paper it's written on?
You only need to do the most basic search on the Internet to see the many opinions on this. There is a very good Which? article some time back that analysed the problems and there was a BBC television Watchdog programme back in 2010 that you may still be able to watch that looks at several different scenarios, one of which is a two bed apartment that comes with all mod cons (and we quote) “open plan kitchen, living room, en-suite master bedroom and lots of mould!”
The mould was said to be down to lifestyle. This is a situation that we have come across several times, both under NHBC Warranties and also in legal cases with landlords and tenants and they do need a lot of investigation. The article reports the NHBC took nine months which is a long time.
If you Google Kimberley Deardon and the NHBC this should bring this one up.
They also talk about another property – a five bedroom house that had damp and mould which looked to be a problem with the damp proof course. It has taken over two years to resolve.
If you Google Ellen Burnell and the NHBC this should bring this one up.
They also talked about a third case by Mr and Mrs Myers which related to foundation problems. It quotes a six figure claims cost to date.
The article is also interesting because it mentions about how the NHBC is funded and about 50% of the funding is from investment income and then it says the other 50% is paid for by builders.
We would suggest to you that you read the Watchdog viewers responses as these are very interesting too.
There is also a site called Snagging.org where you can read some interesting comments on the forum.
There is also MoneySavingExpert.com which as usual has lots of useful information on it including an interesting bit on NHBC and builders and also NHBC or architects certificates; and interesting read too.
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