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‘They’re just trying to make complaints go away’: homeowners’ fury at ‘useless’ new build guarantee

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An employee works on the roof of a residential property under construction
An employee works on the roof of a residential property under construction

Homebuyers who want problems with their newly built homes to be fixed have said the “useless” national guarantee scheme forces them to wait years.

Owners have suffered poor workmanship that has led to water pouring through electrical fittings, broken roof trusses, faulty boilers, crooked walls and even upside-down doors.

Such faults can be fixed by enlisting the help of the National Home Building Council, a developer-funded consumer protection scheme that provides a 10-year guarantee on new-builds. But help has not always been forthcoming, homeowners say.

Emails seen by Telegraph Money show that one housebuilder had asked the NHBC to help it “close down” a complaint. In another email, a developer asked the organisation whether a time limit could be applied “after which we would no longer have a liability”.

Paula Higgins, of the HomeOwners Alliance, a campaign group, said the emails suggested a lack of commitment by the builders to solve problems, many of which they agreed needed fixing.

“It doesn’t sound like they’re looking to sort out the problems,” she said. “It appears like they’re looking to make a complaint go away.”

Peter Shearer, 53, bought a Bellway home in Airdrie, Scotland, in 2016 for £207,000. He complained about 372 faults, including wonky brickwork.

He enlisted the NHBC’s help to resolve matters. “It was absolutely useless,” he said. An email sent in 2019 by Bellway to the NHBC asked if there was any “time limit for the client to respond after which [Bellway] would no longer have a liability?”.

Ryan Kirkaldy demonstrates the faulty patio doors on his home - Dale Cherry
Ryan Kirkaldy demonstrates the faulty patio doors on his home - Dale Cherry

Mr Shearer, instead, had to spend £20,000 in legal fees and reports to get Bellway to take the property off his hands. After five years the firm agreed to buy the property back, but only if the NHBC complaint was withdrawn.

Bellway and the NHBC declined to comment about the email.

A spokesman for the builder said: “The issues raised by the customer were all cosmetic and did not affect the structure of the property. After a protracted dispute, Bellway took the very rare decision to buy back the property and it was subsequently resold on the open market.” This newspaper has found no evidence that the NHBC agreed to a time limit on the complaint.

Ryan Kirkaldy, 39, a web developer, bought a Redrow home in Kingsteignton, Devon, with his fiancée, Natalie. He said boiler trouble, leaking windows and broken patio doors were among the problems.

Mr Kirkaldy submitted a “subject access request” to Redrow, which, under data protection rules, meant the developer had to provide the data it held on him. In an email, a Redrow employee said in connection with Mr Kirkaldy’s complaint: “I think we need to have our Zoom meeting either later this afternoon or tomorrow morning to formulate a strategy to close this down with the help of NHBC.”

The builder said it had not contacted the NHBC over Mr Kirkaldy’s home. A spokesman added: “We have endeavoured to reach a positive outcome and have agreed to address many of the points raised.” Mr Kirkaldy said it was scandalous that developers looked to “close down” complaints rather than fix the faults.

Andrew Crowley at his home - John Lawrence
Andrew Crowley at his home - John Lawrence

Gary Davies, 33, enlisted the NHBC in his dispute with Croudace Homes, the developer of his new-build in Meppershall, Bedfordshire, over a creaky ceiling. “It felt like the onus was on me to prove that Croudace breached the rules, or that there was a genuine problem. I had to get a surveyor out, which cost me £600,” he said.

The NHBC’s stance changed once the professional became involved, Mr Davies said. “All of a sudden they wanted to talk. It really destroyed my mental health and it’s just so frustrating they didn’t listen from the start.” Croudace Homes did not respond to requests for comment.

The criticism comes after an increase in problems with the quality of newly built homes, according to Resolver, a complaints service. It registered 450 complaints in the first half of the year, compared with 365 for the last six months of 2020.

Another reader, Andrew Crowley, had had the front door of his new house put on upside down. Contractors fixed the door on the day he bought his home in 2016 but he is still waiting for the developer, Persimmon, to fix 99 other problems.

A roof truss was broken and a leak allowed water to pour through a light fitting in a downstairs ceiling.

A spokesman for Persimmon said it had been quick to fix the leak and was waiting to agree a time to fix the other problems. Persimmon had no record of the door being fitted upside down.

The NHBC said: “We are sorry the homeowners in question have experienced problems with their new homes. In the past 12 months our resolution service has been used to assist outcomes in 3,202 cases.” Builders were responsible for sorting out snags in the first two years after completion, the spokesman added.

Have you been affected by new-build trouble? We want to hear from you, email: howard.mustoe@telegraph.co.uk
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