The defects liability period

When you buy a new build home, most builders reserve the right to come back and fix snags and defects at their own cost for a period (usually 2 years) after you move in.  This is the “defects liability period”.

 

The following is an overview of the normal contractual and legal framework that governs the defects liability period.

 

What is a defect?

 

Your sale contract with your builder imposes obligations on your builder to construct your new home using proper workmanship and materials, in accordance with Building Regulations, plans and specifications etc. If work is defective, your builder is in breach of contract and you are entitled to a ‘remedy’.


Defective work in new build homes ranges from minor issues that do not affect normal use or occupation (often called “snags”) to more serious problems such as issues with the design of foundations which may compromise the structural integrity of your home. A snag, despite being minor, is still a defect and is still a breach of contract by the builder.


Even work carried out properly, if outside the written specification for your home, can be defective (eg using different coloured roof slates to those required by a planning obligation, no matter how well laid, that is a defect).

 

The Defects Liability Clause


The normal legal remedy for defects that amounted to breaches of contract would be to sue the builder for the money to put the works right. Most new build homes are sold on terms which means you must first give the builder the opportunity to return and fix things at their own cost.


The defects liability process for new build homes generally works like this (check your own arrangements and seek advice if unsure):

  1. You should report defects to your builder in writing within the defects liability period (usually 2 years from moving in);
  2. You must give your builder reasonable access and allow them a reasonable time in which to come and fix reported defects at their own cost;
  3. Your builder should do the works in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable time, and do a proper job.

 

What if the builder fails or refuses to deal with defects?

 

If the builder refuses to do works e.g. because they did not consider that the cost was justified and that no works should be done, one option would be to pursue a claim for such legal remedy as you may be entitled to through the courts.  If you would like to discuss this option in relation to your new home, please contact us.

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