The National House-Building Council (NHBC) is an independent non-profit-making organization that guarantees new houses built by member builders for a up to ten years. The system doesn’t work quite as wonderful as it sounds, but it’s a lot better than shutting your eyes and taking pot luck.
What happens is this builders registered with NHBC have to tell the Council when they are about to start building a house. An inspector visits the site every three weeks or so during construction to make sure the builders are actually putting cement between the bricks, etc. If the inspector finds defects, the builder has to put them right.
When a building is completed, an inspector makes a final inspection and if it doesn’t fall down when he leans against it, the house gets a ten-year guarantee certificate.
This means that the builder has to put right all defects free for the first two years and major constructional faults for the next eight.
If the builder disputes these faults, there’s an arbitration procedure. If the builder goes bankrupt, the NHBC will pay for another builder to put the place right for you.
Bad builders can be struck off the register – nine were given the chop last year and as this means virtual blacklisting by building societies and solicitors, it’s a fairly effective deterrent.
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The snag is the ‘major structural defects’ bit. A lot can go wrong with a house without the roof blowing off or the whole thing disappearing into a hole in the ground, and you could easily find yourself, after the two-year minor-defects guarantee expires, having to spend several hundred pounds replastering walls, eliminating rising damp, or re-tiling the roof to keep the rain out.
If this happens and the builder declines responsibility, you should certainly do battle with the NHBC anyway, and failing that, have a private survey done with a view to suing the builder.
A lot of new home-owners fall out with the NHBC over differences of opinion over acceptable standards of workmanship. It seems that sloping walls and uneven plastering are the rule rather than the exception these days and many house-buyers have ‘been horrified to find that, having insisted on having all their walls re-plastered, a worse job was done second time round.