What do builders allow?

Most house builders will not allow a professional snagger into your house or apartment until you have taken legal completion. Whilst this is not the answer most new homebuyers want, unfortunately, this is the reality.

There are however a few builders who are more than happy to let a professional snagger in to snag the house or apartment before their customers take legal completion. If the house or apartment is finished and being sold by an estate agent then access is normally granted.

The New Homes Quality Board

However, this situation could be about to change. In 2021 there was a draft consultation document sent to all major house builders from the New Homes Quality Board. This new code of practice document stated that all developers registered with the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) agree to follow the New Homes Quality Code. 

Below is an extract from this document, which will give some new homebuyers comfort knowing that things are about to change.

Having spoken directly to several managing directors and production directors of some of the largest house builders, the code will be challenging but beneficial to all, as professional snaggers will also have to demonstrate their knowledge and experience to meet certain criteria to be accredited.

The feedback I received from these house builders is they will not recognise any professional snaggers who are not accredited.

About the New Homes Quality Code 

The below extracts are taken from the New Homes Quality Board Code of Practice consultation document. 

Who does it apply to? 

All Developers registered with the New Homes Quality Board must comply with the Code and agree to adhere to the adjudications of the New Homes Ombudsman service. 

How long does it apply for? 

The Code will apply to each New Home from the marketing for sale of the New Home and for a period of two calendar years after the date of Legal Completion of the New Home. 

Who gets the benefit of the Code? 

For: The Code has been designed for a consumer purchaser who is buying a newly built home for their own occupation, including their household or, for After-Sales (section three) only, a subsequent purchaser for that home. 

Not For: The Code does not apply to: 

  • Business purchases, whether individual or corporate entities, including for investment and/or renting, and which includes sales to a Housing Association, Registered Provider or other party under a part-ownership scheme. 
  • Other properties other than a New Home, including homes accepted by a Developer in part exchange and re-sold. 
  • Properties built by self-builders or under contract between a Builder and an individual for their own occupation.

The code has four sections:

  • Section one – Selling a new home
  • Section two- Legal documents, information, inspection, and completion
  • Section three- after-sales, complaints management and the New Homes Ombudsman
  • Section four- solvency, legal and jurisdiction

Section two (see below) is the one we are interested in. This section mentions how an accredited professional can carry out snagging before completion. This is a major step in the right direction. However, the problem will be with developers having their plots ready in time for the inspection to be carried out within this time frame. 

Keeping the Customer Informed and Pre-Completion Inspection Checks

The Developer must provide an opportunity for the Customer to appoint an accredited professional to carry out a pre-completion inspection check on their behalf, to be carried out before completion and from 5 calendar days (earlier by mutual agreement) after the Notice to Complete has been served. In setting the Legal Completion Notice Period, in order to provide sufficient notice to complete all legal requirements and provide the opportunity for the pre-completion inspection check to be carried out this would usually be expected to be no less than 14 calendar days.

The Developer should explain the process for keeping the Customer updated about the timetable for the likely completion of the New Home and provide timely updates to the Customer.

The Developer must ensure that their sites comply with all relevant health & safety legislation and guidance appropriate to visitors. 

The Developer must inform Customers about the health & safety precautions they, or their representative should take if and when permitted to visit a live construction site. The Developer can refuse access to a live construction site to the Customer or any representative or accredited professional acting on their behalf if health and safety precautions required by the developer are not adhered to.

Section three talks about the snagging period and resolution of snagging issues, complaint’s procedure and referral to the New Homes Ombudsman.

Snagging Period and Resolution of Snagging Issues

It is widely acknowledged that there are some finishing or other issues which need addressing on moving into a New Home and these are commonly known as “Snags” and “Snagging”. 

Developers and Customers are expected to work collaboratively around identification, access and resolution of Snagging following Legal Completion.

The Developer must ensure that Snags are covered by the After-Sales Service and that, once agreed, they are resolved promptly.

Any Snags, issues or problems raised through the After-Sales Service process must be acknowledged promptly. It is expected that in most situations a Developer should be able to resolve an After-Sales issue or problem within 30 calendar days, other than where there is a substantial reason for delay. Where there is such a delay, the reasons for that should be communicated clearly to the Customer, with no less than monthly updates provided until the matter is resolved. If a Customer is dissatisfied with the After Sales Service a Complaint may be made under the formal Complaints Process of that Developer.

For the avoidance of doubt, Emergency Issues are not Snags and, if not resolved satisfactorily, a Customer can make a Complaint about such Emergency Issues from the date of Legal Completion.

Complaints Process

If a Customer is dissatisfied with the resolution of an issue or problem raised through the After-Sale Service, a Complaint may be made in accordance with the Developer’s Complaints Process. 

It is a Requirement that the Developer’s Complaints procedures must include the following mandated minimum steps from the date of the first Complaint: 

1) Written Acknowledgement: no later than 5 calendar days of the Complaint being received, the Developer will send a written acknowledgment of the Complaint to a Customer which also confirms the date on which the Complaint was received (the Complaint Initiation Date). 

2) Path to Resolution Letter: no later than 10 calendar days of the Complaint Initiation Date, the Developer will provide a written Path to Resolution which outlines to a Customer how the Developer will investigate the Complaint. This will include notifying a Customer if the Complaint may be subject to a resolution service. 

3) Complaint Assessment and Response Letter: no later than 30 calendar days of the Complaint Initiation Date, a Customer will be sent a Complaint Assessment and Response Letter from the Developer. 

The Complaint Assessment and Response letter must include the following information:

  1. a) each Complaint is to be separately identified and reported upon.
  2. b) where a Complaint has been resolved, what action has been taken to do so.
  3. c) if not resolved but further time is needed to look into the matter, the estimated time within which a decision will be reached together with a brief explanation as to what further steps are required and why.
  4. d) if not resolved but remediation work is accepted, what that work will be and an estimated time within which required work will be completed. 
  5. e) where further investigations or remediation has been set out in the letter, when the next update will be provided, which must not be more than 28 calendar days. 
  6. f) where a Complaint is not accepted, that is to be set out clearly with a clear explanation for the decision.
  7. g) information about any recommended engagement with any applicable resolution service.
  8. h) information about how to refer matters to the New Homes Ombudsman service.

4) Eight Week Letter: where the complaint is not closed and no later than 56 calendar days from the Complaint Initiation Date, a Customer will be sent an Eight Week Letter from the Developer.

The Eight Week Letter must include the following information:

  1. a) a clear summary of what action has been taken to date.
  2. b) clear details of what is still outstanding, a reason why and the actions to be taken.
  3. c) an indicative timescale for resolution.
  4. d) the frequency that updates will be provided to the Customer by the Developer until resolution, which must not be more than 28 calendar days.

5) Closure Letter: to be sent by the Developer to the Customer at any stage following the Complaint Initiation Date

The letter must include:

  1. a) a list of the items agreed in the Complaint Assessment and Response letter and confirmation that each item has been resolved.
  2. b) information about how to refer matters to the New Homes Ombudsman service.

For the avoidance of doubt, a Developer may choose to aggregate a number of Complaints into a single Complaint, provided that the timetable shall apply from the first such Complaint received. 

Referrals to the New Homes Ombudsman service

If Defects complained of or Snags reported are not resolved in accordance with the timetables and procedure required by the Complaints Process, then a Customer may refer a Dispute to the New Homes Ombudsman service. It is within the New Homes Ombudsman service’s discretion to decide when or if to accept a referral to it, in accordance with the New Homes Ombudsman service’s scheme rules. 

In line with established consumer best practice a Customer can refer a Complaint to the New Homes Ombudsman service after 56 calendar days of the Complaint Initiation Date. It is within the New Homes Ombudsman service’s discretion to decide when or if to accept a referral to it, in accordance with the New Homes Ombudsman service’s scheme rules.

The Developer must cooperate with any request from the New Homes Ombudsman service to provide all relevant information where a Customer has asked a Complaint to be investigated.

What does it mean for new home buyers?

This is good news for new home buyers as snagging before legal completion should ensure that any snags identified can be rectified before the customer moves into their new home. 

We will have to wait and see how this is implemented and what difference it will make to the quality of new homes constructed today.

If you are looking for a professional snagger to inspect your new home before or after completion, let us know.