What is the New Homes Quality Board?
The New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS) has introduced guidelines from the consultation from the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) for all new-build developers to sign up to.
This is the biggest shake-up that has ever occurred in the new-build construction industry and is excellent news for new homeowners. Until now, there has been little guidance for what a customer should do when they are unhappy about the quality of their house.
We are often asked by customers what they can do when they have issues the builders are not responding to, and other than raising a dispute with the warranty company (such as the NHBC), a lot of customers resort to going to the press.
The New Homes Ombudsman will meditate disputes up to the value of £50,000 (which should cover the majority of cases) and it will span the length of the first 2 years after completion. Crucially, the Ombudsman will hold statutory powers over the builders.
There will be a new code of practice for the builders to follow that will be broad, but the main one that affects our industry of snagging houses will be the allowance for us to go in pre-completion.
Typically until now, most builders try to deter or simply refuse customers getting us around to do a snagging inspection until after completion. As part of the new build ombudsman, this will change with a requirement for them to allow a professional around to inspect the property pre-completion. The timescale for this inspection will expect to be 1 week prior to collecting the keys, which is a suitable timeframe to address the majority of issues found.
There is the question of what a 'professional' means, but we anticipate this being a qualified surveyor or builder that is a part of professional bodies such as RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) or the CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building). The issue otherwise is that inexperienced people will flood the market offering snagging surveys when they are not qualified or experienced in doing so.
There will likely be a basic snagging survey format introduced which will allow the homeowner to get a qualified person to check the fundamentals of the property. This will give them the reassurance that their property is of good quality or of course give them the knowledge before they complete over shortfalls. This is in the similar way in which a homeowner for an older home could choose between a RICS condition survey 1, 2 or 3 (1 being the basic condition survey vs 3 being the most in-depth Home Survey)
When shortfalls are found, the builder will be required to rectify before completion. This is of course excellent news for homeowners and holds the builders accountable.
The exact timeframe this yet to be determined however we anticipate for the official guidelines will be released by the end of the year and for there to be a period of transition for developers abide by the regulations.
What it means for HomeSnag
This is excellent news for our company's future as we are the only snagging company in the UK that is Regulated by RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors). This will put us in prime position for being the best snagging company to offer either a basic standard of snagging checks or a full snagging survey and package options we currently offer.
For more information please see: https://www.nhqb.org.uk/
What is causing a tapping/creaking noise when hot water or heating is on in my new build house?
Hearing a tapping or a creaking noise when you have the heating on or when you are running the hot tap on your bath/shower/sink is a common issue. We have been to several new-build houses where the homeowners have been living with the annoyance for years.
The most common cause of it is the hot water passing through the copper pipework which vibrates against timber studs. An example of it is shown in the video below where we recently carried out snagging surveys in a block of apartments in the Midlands.
To remedy the issue requires intrusive work finding where it is occurring... this can be a process of trial and error because the source of sound can be misleading.
What is new build settlement?
If you have bought a new build property and find that your site manager is mentioning 'settlement' or tells you "not to worry about 'shrinkage' cracks", then this blog will hopefully be of help to you. We explain the difference between shrinkage and settlement, why it occurs and what to look out for.
'Settlement' from a building surveying point of view technically lasts for 10 years, although on a practical basis you should only really notice the signs within the first 12 months after completion.
Shrinkage can however show signs in other places such as cracks in your brickwork / mortar outside. It can also cause floor tiles to crack (mainly upstairs). This is often why the Sales or Site team will suggest against laying tiles upstairs, as they are less durable to cope with the movement of the house.
We would therefore recommend laying a temporary floor surface material in your bathroom such as lino down and then waiting a year before changing to tiles.
What is shrinkage?
Shrinkage is due to the construction materials drying out. As shown in this video, shrinkage cracks often run along the top of walls rather than at openings, at a constant width no less than 2mm. As these 'wet' construction materials (plaster, mortar and concrete) contain a lot of water, it usually takes several months for the shrinkage cracks to occur. Allowing for ventilation (trickle vents) in the property help this drying out period.
So, with this being said, what does the builder have to do? The answer is that it depends what severity the crack is. According to the BRE, anything less than 5mm is considered minor (cosmetic). The NHBC have a similar stance on this and advise that anything less than 2mm is not of a concern. To check this during our snagging survey we use a crack guage ruler and our photographs are date stamped to monitor if the crack grows.
For more information about cracking, a useful document provided by the NHBC is here. Also feel free to get in touch with us if you have any concerns over cracks appearing in your home that may be beyond settlement.
Choosing between snagging companies
Making the decision to choose between snagging companies is difficult at first glance as some companies replicate what we have achieved over the past 5 years developing our snagging survey process. The most important questions to ask yourself before booking a snagging company are the following:
The most common misconception when booking a snagging survey is that we all do the same thing and are all qualified surveyors. This is far from the truth. Even a RICS chartered surveyor cannot offer you the level of service that we provide. But the problem occurs when customers choose to employ certain snagging companies that are cheaper. At face value it seems that we are earning more money from the snagging survey than our cheaper counterparts but as a nationwide company we actually will earn less, in part because of VAT and insurance etc.
We want to ensure that you choose the best snagging company for your new build property so it is important that you choose the best service and not the best price. An un-qualified snagging inspector is quite frankly more likely to miss important issues. For more information about the service we provide, see our webpage why choose us.
What is the new build snagging period?
It depends between developers, however generally speaking the snagging period can be split into 2 sections: within the first 2 months and then before the end of 2 years...
2 month snagging period
It is important to raise your snagging list with the builder within the 2 months of completion because it is in line with the HBF survey deadline. The HBF survey is a scheme most of the larger developers operate as it independently determines customer satisfaction in questions such as "would you recommend your builder to a friend?". The responses to this question alone ultimately determines how many stars they are awarded and display on their flags you see when entering the site!
So, with this in mind the reason the 2 month period is important is because the site team will typically be attentive to your snag list in haste of the HBF satisfaction survey landing on your doorstep. The sales and site team are rewarded for good responses so it is in their best interests that you score them well!
Typically after the survey expires or has been completed, the site team may not be as attentive to minor issues. This is why we slightly change the way we raise snags on our reports after 2 months of completion; focusing on more important (deemed 'out of tolerance') snagging issues rather than cosmetic.
2 year snagging period
There is a second HBF survey that is sent out to customers at 9 months after completion, but interestingly these findings are not published. With this in mind, it is now the 2 year snagging period that's important to consider. Developers provide a 2 year warranty for defects that are deemed out out tolerance, classed by the NHBC / LABC etc.
This is why our company offer a full package which includes an initial snagging survey and then a follow up inspection around 18 months down the line (as well as other benefits such as a thermal heat loss survey)... Both the <2 month and then <2 year surveys are carried out with the realistic expectation of what your developer will be willing to do at these 2 stages.
10 year warranty
After the 2 year period, you would need to raise a dispute with the NHBC / LABC / (other) directly but they will only be willing to investigate more major issues. Approximately 70% of the claims made with the NHBC are roofing issues, to illustrate this point.
The NHBC / other do check your property at various stages during the build as they are there to ensure that building regulations have been adhered to, but they do not pay attention to the quality of finish... which is where a snagging survey is so important.
For more information about the snagging periods and what sort of survey would be best for your property, call our office and we'd be happy to discuss!
As well as being qualified building surveyors, our HomeSnag surveyors are also qualified Building Thermographers. This is important because the majority of surveyors using a thermal camera are not trained to understand when or how to use a thermal camera properly. They may miss issues or likewise misdiagnose something due to not following the necessary procedures.
As a rule to ensure that the correct temperature difference (inside vs outside) is achieved, we only carry out thermographic heat loss surveys during the months between November-February.
The most common heat loss faults with new build houses relate to either draughts or improperly installed insulation. Insulation is found both in the loft and in the cavity of external walls. The cavity wall insulation can range from rigid panels that are built up, or it can be blown in. We use professional thermal cameras and borescope cameras to check for any cavity insulation issues and we spend time in the loft ensuring it has been laid properly. Often in the loft, tradesman carrying out work to ducting and electrics move the insulation aside or it simply hasn't been cross laid to prevent air pockets. It is surprising how little of a gap in either the loft or cavity wall will be noticeable to a homeowner.
Whilst the winter months will lead to the majority of customers calling us to report issues, the effects of poor cavity wall insulation can actually be felt in the summer months too. The reason for this is that the purpose of cavity wall insulation is to stop air flow. So in summer months, a lack of cavity wall insulation will not prevent the warm air from transferring outside indoors to the cooler air... this is simply nature's way of wanting to return to an equilibrium. So if you have one room that is uncomfortably warmer in the summer months, it may be a sign of poor cavity wall insulation because it is too easily finding that equilibrium through the walls.
An example of both missing cavity wall insulation and loft insulation are provided below from one of our reports carried out this year by our snagger Alex. If you would like us to carry out a thermal heat loss survey on your new-build house, click below to check availability. You can choose us to carry out the survey on its own (suitable if you have been in your new build house for more than a year) or as part of the full package if you have recently moved in.
Today our snagging surveyor Alex highlighted an important shortfall in the loft of this new build house. It is a great example of how important it is to employ an experienced surveyor to snag your new build house, as this is something no homeowner would know to look for and of course it has just been missed by the site and warranty inspections.
Couple move into £225,000 dream home - only to find nearly 200 snags
Increasingly, new snagging companies attempt to copy our service and it is important to consider the difference in what we offer as qualified professionals. Our surveyors are qualified in building thermography, meaning we know what to look for and also what to dismiss. Without the knowledge we have, you are unlikely to receive the same sort of service and unfortunately get misleading advice. For example, most of our competitors that have attempted to copy our service are offering to conduct thermal heat loss checks throughout the year, whereas the correct ambient temperatures are needed to see results which is why we only conduct thermal heat loss checks in the winter months, either as part of a stand alone inspection or as part of the full package.
With HomeSnag you have the reassurance of a reputable company with qualified professionals so please ensure you don't choose an unqualified person to attend your house!
A Snaggers Blog
HomeSnag inspectors are experts at inspecting new-build houses. This blog shares real examples to demonstrate the importance of getting your new build house or apartment snagged professionally
"I always insist that there is specific provision for snagging," says Thomas Moran, partner at law firm Speechly Bircham. "Reputable developers do this anyway, but there are all sorts in the market, some big, some small, so you need a contractual promise than within, say, a year they will come back to remedy any minor defects in the finishing."
read full article here