Alphonsox

Build Quality - Guardian

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It does seem that the time has come for better legal protection for new homebuyers.

 

We had a long snagging list when we moved into our current house. It seems pretty much standard. However, the builder was pretty good about fixing them. It seems that is the main difference between the good and bad builders. Reading the story and the catalogue of issues with Harron, I cannot believe anyone would buy a house from them.

 

I still remember in my previous house there was no light bulb in three places. I didn't put it on the snagging list, I just put in bulbs. The two places in the house the light switches were upside down and the third place was the garage. The garage was not next to the houses it was at the end of the row of houses. When I put the bulb in I found they had not connected the garage to the electricity supply. They had to dig up the road. Clearly someone realised the problem when they tried the bulbs. They could have fixed it but instead left me to find it. It's just a level of general laziness and lack of pride in the job.

 

Presumably if they knew that legal comeback was easier then they would take more care like for most consumer products. The UK could also do with a lemon law for cars in a similar vein. I think it is to stop people pulling out of these large purchases for small reasons that they have less legal protection, but this is exploited by many businesses to provide a substandard product.

 

When I have had problems the NHBC have been utterly and totally useless. If I was buying a house off a developer I would seriously consider getting a full survey on it at completion today. It may seem like a waste of money but finding any issues straight away would make trying to get them fixed somewhat easier.

Edited by AliG

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The problem of poor quality new houses has been rampant for years, now, and isn't something new.  The obvious defects are not really the problem, it's the fact that so many new houses don't meet build regs standards, as they are never inspected.  A walk around any new development by one of the big housebuilders will show just how big a problem this is.  We have around half a dozen big developments around the Salisbury area, and all of them showed indications of missing and poorly fitted insulation, failure to close off cavities properly, thermal bridges in the structure etc, and that was just what I could see when walking past.

 

The builders know that building regs won't be enforced, and that all these defects will be hidden by the time the house is sold, so they really don't give a stuff.  Sadly, our local MP doesn't seem the slightest bit interested in lobbying to tighten up the enforcement of building regs, but takes the view that companies should be deregulated further..............

Edited by JSHarris
typos

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I do snagging surveys for friends and I've thankfully started to do less as people have stopped buying the developer boxes and have bought older properties to renovate (usually after seeing what we and others have done)

 

In no particular order, I've had :

- no stormwater drains (yep, straight into the ground..)

- a toilet not connected to a water supply

- a pushfit JG tee held on with electrical tape

- internal door with no latchbar between the handles ...

- handle on the wrong side of a kitchen door (yep, hinge side...)

- staircase handrail with just a bracket top and bottom 

- damaged stone corbels and cills

- bowed rainwater pipes where they have sprung the pipe onto the gutter ....

 

Thats the big stuff, invariably you get nail pops, cracks etc that you see everywhere even on the more expensive builds.

 

I was banned from a T***** W****y site for a 5 page snagging report - they told the site manager to call the police if I turned up, I said to do that as I could have them for fraud as they were charging for work that was never done ... 

 

 

 

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@PeterW How exactly did they propose banning you from someone's house?

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6 minutes ago, AliG said:

@PeterW How exactly did they propose banning you from someone's house?

 

Well it wasn't theirs at the time as they hadn't completed so they could say it was trespassing however that's civil ... 

 

In the end it all worked out ok and a lot of the issues were resolved but I know they had the MagicMan in there for nearly 2 days so I've no idea how much that cost TW. The one thing they never fixed and still bugs me to this day is the window board half way up the staircase - it's at about 3 degrees slope left to right and Chloe insists on having a vase on it that shows how out of level it is ..! 

 

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As the Guardian argues we need to beef up the consumer rights protection - it won't be easy because private (older) house sales need to be kept clear of it because of unlimited (cost of purchase + putting up the householder while the problems are fixed + stress on the family + fixing the problems) comeback in case of a problem and perhaps caveat emptor needs to prevail there but for a new build there really is no excuse. I think the problem may have its root cause in the way the big housebuilders (indeed all main contractors) are structured with a Coase's law boundary that is only a few layers deep and that actual work is carried out by a battery of sub contractors who have often / sometimes / not infrequently been screwed down on price and so are running on tight margins that drive cost reductions and corner cutting. Essentially you can argue that the shareholders, of the main contractors, dividends are driving the quality / size and supply down!

Edited by MikeSharp01
Added older houses

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I am pleased to see the media taking this up.

 

How to fix it?

 

I think we need some institutionalised detailed analysis of defects along the lines of "Show Stopper, Important, Urgent" (borrowing from time management ideas but I recall that manufacturing industry has some good schemes for classification). I am concerned that "98% had some defect" rhetoric would lead to a general demonisation rather than cost-effective improvement. We need to distnguish between a missing light-bulb and  missing insulation.

 

Others will argue that a general demonsiation is what is needed.

 

We could have a "lemon law" right-to-reject? But that would not work in a supply restricted market. We could have a rebates law for fixing faults, but that could potentially would weaken suppliers (a good thing?) - and would potentially open opportunities for fixers to price-gouge.

 

What do we need to be arguing for with our politicians? It needs 2 or 3 points that can be done easily, understandably and now.

 

There are quite some hundreds of local Councillor seats up for grabs in May ... and some County Councils may be changing hands eg Derbyshire.

 

I am teetering ever closer to starting a real blog again :-) .

 

Ferdinand

 

 


 

Edited by Ferdinand
Request for suggestions added

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I agree that consumer laws should be improved when it comes to houses, but that's really only going to sort the defects that are either immediately obvious, or that become obvious within a reasonable warranty period.  My concern is that we have a pretty comprehensive set of building regulations, yet they are ignored by the majority of new house builders.  Even my own building inspector agreed with me, and reckoned that around 60% of all new houses were not compliant with building regs.  Frankly this is a ludicrous situation.

 

New cars are 100% inspected, not because the law demands it, but because the manufacturers know that quality is key to their reputation and so directly impacts their sales.  For around 5 years I managed a small fleet of aircraft, and for a year or so was responsible for the whole of the Lynx helo fleet (around 300 A/C at that time).  Inspections were part and parcel of life, with everything being independently inspected and checked, often several times, by different people.  Self-builders are 100% inspected and checked, yet we only make up a tiny part of the UK house building market and we're the sector with a vested interest in making sure our homes are well-built. 

 

It's barking mad to have a system where the lowest risk of non-compliance sector is 100% inspected and the highest risk of non-compliance sector is barely 10% inspected.

Edited by JSHarris
typo

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38 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

I agree that consumer laws should be improved when it comes to houses, but that's really only going to sort the defects that are either immediately obvious, or that become obvious within a reasonable warranty period.  My concern is that we have a pretty comprehensive set of building regulations, yet they are ignored by the majority of new house builders.  Even my own building inspector agreed with me, and reckoned that around 60% of all new houses were not compliant with building regs.  Frankly this is a ludicrous situation.

 

New cars are 100% inspected, not because the law demands it, but because the manufacturers know that quality is key to their reputation and so directly impacts their sales.  For around 5 years I managed a small fleet of aircraft, and for a year or so was responsible for the whole of the Lynx helo fleet (around 300 A/C at that time).  Inspections were part and parcel of life, with everything being independently inspected and checked, often several times, by different people.  Self-builders are 100% inspected and checked, yet we only make up a tiny part of the UK house building market and we're the sector with a vested interest in making sure our homes are well-built. 

 

It's barking mad to have a system where the lowest risk of non-compliance sector is 100% inspected and the highest risk of non-compliance sector is barely 10% inspected.

 

Where are the inspection requirements driven from in housing?

 

is there eg delegated legislation that can be amended? I would be quite happy to write to my MP on this.

 

Can a local authority decide to inspect more estate houses more thoroughly off their own bat? IIRC the services are supposed to be run on a cost-recovery basis so scope may exist.

 

(Aside: what is the equivalent quality for social / council housing - I have horror stories of repairs etc in that sector, and in people breaking things so eg they get a new 'x'. This could easily turn into private bad ... public good if the politicoes get a hold of the issue).

 

Do we know how recent this is .. is the start date say coming out of the recession when pressure was deliberately relaxed, and we can argue it now needs to be back on since the volume is well on the way to recovering?

Edited by Ferdinand

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The deregulation of building inspection brought about a massive relaxation of inspection requirements for big builders.  So it's a problem that's been around for many years now.  It's getting more attention now because, I think, there's been a shortage of skilled workers available, following the big downturn in new building a few years ago.  The big builders are now just using the fact that the majority of their new houses will never be inspected as a cover for poor workmanship, and I'm not convinced that it's wholly as a result of pressure to drive down cost, I think a lot of it is because they just don't care.

 

The regulations at the moment only require a small sample of a particular design on a new development to be inspected, with the majority of houses of the same design not even being glanced at by an inspector.  Also, the builder can select which sample houses will be subject to inspection..................

 

 

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18 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

The deregulation of building inspection brought about a massive relaxation of inspection requirements for big builders.  So it's a problem that's been around for many years now.  It's getting more attention now because, I think, there's been a shortage of skilled workers available, following the big downturn in new building a few years ago.  The big builders are now just using the fact that the majority of their new houses will never be inspected as a cover for poor workmanship, and I'm not convinced that it's wholly as a result of pressure to drive down cost, I think a lot of it is because they just don't care.

 

The regulations at the moment only require a small sample of a particular design on a new development to be inspected, with the majority of houses of the same design not even being glanced at by an inspector.  Also, the builder can select which sample houses will be subject to inspection..................

 

 

 

Trying to build a timeline.

 

AIUI Private Building Inspectors came in in the 1980s under Thatcher Reforms (together with more acceptance of increased fees etc). Possibly 1984 Building Act.

 

Can you point me to the Regs that control the "sample size" of inspection?

 

Thanks

 

Ferdinand

 

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Private building inspection services is the key and i include the LA in this. All Approved Inspector bodies have a commercial pressure and this is always going to affect the impartiality of the inspection service. I am not a fan of nationalisation but I do think in this case commercial decisions need to be removed from building inspection services. The danger here as I am sure many are aware is how this then is run. We all know how many government departments are run and managed. I don't see a particularly improved situation with this either.

 

Consumer protection has to be the key driver - it needs to start hitting the builders in the pocket before anything will start to change.

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All inspections in NI are done by council employees who in my dealings with them take no shit whatsoever. If it's done wrong and gets spotted it gets fixed. All of the big sites I worked on every single house was inspected usually getting signed of 2/3 days before its handover date. 

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In the circs, in England (is this devolved?) there would seem to be a potential market opportunity for "100% inspection" .. if it could be hgh on the priority of customers (see EPCs and energy saving!).

 

What is the position in Scotland and Wales? Are Private Building Inspectors available?

 

Fishing for evidence, so we have similar "cases" from SWNI?

 

Flying a kite: could 100% inspection be a Planning Condition? The six rules say a PC must be:

 

Quote

Paragraph 206 of the National Planning Policy Framework states “Planning conditions should only be imposed where they are:

  1. necessary;
  2. relevant to planning and;
  3. to the development to be permitted;
  4. enforceable;
  5. precise and;
  6. reasonable in all other respects.”

 

On the surface, that is a "maybe" to me.

 

That would not address the "Private Inspector" issue, however.

 

Ferdinand

 

Edited by Ferdinand

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I don't believe that their are private building inspectors in Scotland, although we did have the recent issue of failing walls in PFI school buildings which seemed to be self inspected by the builders.

 

As was already pointed out though building control give a lot more hassle to self builders than developers and don't seem to inspect all developers houses.

 

We had a house here were the roof wasn't tied to the house, it could have blown off in a storm. Building control had signed it off and weren't' interested in the issue.

Edited by AliG

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I bought a new house from a national housebuilder (am I allowed to name them?) in 2005. My wife's relocation package paid the purchase costs so we had a snagging survey done. On a 5 bed detached house, this picked up 119 snags. The housebuilder didnt object to the snagging survey as long as it didnt delay completion and we got the solicitors to insert a clause for a timeline to get the snags sorted and it was ultimately sorted out. 

 

The snagging man was a retired building inspector and he told me in a conversation that inspection was delegated to NHBC who inspect one house of each type on an estate and even this isnt a thorough inspection. So in effect its a box ticking exercise. NHBC itself is a very questionable setup. The worst builders are the highest contributors and I cannot see how NHBC management will every want to crack the whip with their paymasters.

 

I have also dealt with private building inspectors and I must say it was pretty poor. I was also more than a little bit surprised when the building inspector showed up in a Porsche Panamerica (or something like that).

 

On the contrary, by LA building inspector on the build has been superb. Very thorough, knowledgeable and helpful.

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My private BCO is a director of the company doing it and he has been very thorough so far but also very helpful. It helps that I've been open with him and he can see the quality and effort going in and we aren't trying to hide anything. 

 

In contrast, a build round the corner is using LABC and has had a number of delays despite inspections being booked which delayed the likes of the foundation pour. 

 

Horses for courses I think as there is good and bad in both systems. 

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@Ferdinand, I'm not sure where in the regs the sampling regime is specified, I didn't realise that this was how things worked until I found out from a building inspector (and LABC one, who was very good, in my view).  His comment to me was that on big developments one house of each type would be subject to an inspection, by the house builders own inspector, and I think he mentioned a figure of up to twenty houses could be included in the "inspect one and assume the rest are the same" rule.  I'm sure it's buried in the regulations somewhere.

 

I've related my very negative experience with trying to make a claim from NHBC before, so won't repeat it, but I do not think that NHBC adds any real value, they just tick a box for lenders.  Lenders aren't really at risk, because the risk is almost entirely laid off to the homeowners insurer, with the lender usually insisting that there be adequate buildings insurance cover.

 

What we have is a system that can be, and definitely is, gamed by the big builders, yet which is applied rigorously to small builders and self-builders.

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11 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

@Ferdinand, I'm not sure where in the regs the sampling regime is specified, I didn't realise that this was how things worked until I found out from a building inspector (and LABC one, who was very good, in my view).  His comment to me was that on big developments one house of each type would be subject to an inspection, by the house builders own inspector, and I think he mentioned a figure of up to twenty houses could be included in the "inspect one and assume the rest are the same" rule.  I'm sure it's buried in the regulations somewhere.

 

I've related my very negative experience with trying to make a claim from NHBC before, so won't repeat it, but I do not think that NHBC adds any real value, they just tick a box for lenders.  Lenders aren't really at risk, because the risk is almost entirely laid off to the homeowners insurer, with the lender usually insisting that there be adequate buildings insurance cover.

 

What we have is a system that can be, and definitely is, gamed by the big builders, yet which is applied rigorously to small builders and self-builders.

 

I can absolutely assure you that is not the case, there is no guidance that allows for spot inspections and there are pretty strict guidelines BCO's and all inspection records have to be made available on request. The only thing this may apply to is air tightness testing which can be done on spot check regime.

I can't say this does not happen at all as there is always going to be rogue inspectors, the same as poor builders and every other profession. You would be amazed at the level of monitoring and auditing as a BCO.

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4 hours ago, AliG said:

I don't believe that their are private building inspectors in Scotland, although we did have the recent issue of failing walls in PFI school buildings which seemed to be self inspected by the builders.

 

As was already pointed out though building control give a lot more hassle to self builders than developers and don't seem to inspect all developers houses.

 

We had a house here were the roof wasn't tied to the house, it could have blown off in a storm. Building control had signed it off and weren't' interested in the issue.

 

Checked and none in Scotland, while there are in E & W.

 

There was a consultation in 2011:

 

http://www.checkmate.uk.com/resources_pressreleases_scotland_retains_local_authorities_as_only_verifiers303.asp

 

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The thing is, people are still buying this crap, even with the hundreds of stories about how bad they are!

Building control don't inspect or test every unit so it lets the developer be lazy. But the biggest thing is that most of the defect/snags are nothing to do with the building regs, it's just poor workmanship and no pride in the work.

I used to snag some developer housing and they would always try to do the worst job possible to get signed off so the bar was set suitably low for the rest.

Really opens the door for small scale developers and custom build sites imo but the public need much better educated 

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I don't think that the majority of people have much choice other than to buy this crap, sadly, nor have the experience and knowledge of knowing what problems to look for.

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