Legal Studio Talk Snags, Defects And Your Buildmark Warranty

What to do if something is wrong.

For most people, one of the main reasons for buying a new build is the ability to move into a brand new property, finished to a high standard, with no renovation requirements.

However, a new build property is handcrafted by humans.

Each property will differ slightly, and there may be small areas which are not 100% perfect and it may then come as an unexpected shock to find ‘snags’ (very minor problems) when you move into your property. 

Most new homebuyers find that these slight snags do not bother them in the slightest, or simply do not even notice them.

However, there are inevitably more serious snags and defects which arise from time to time.


This is why, when you buy your new build property, you will usually buy it with the following:

1. Snagging list.

This is a list which may be handed to you on completion for you to complete within the first few weeks, to bring to the builder’s attention any ‘snags’ which require rectification.

2. Two year builder’s warranty.

Within the first two years, if your property suffers from certain defects, the builder will be required to rectify them. If they fail to do so, you can refer them to the National House Builder Council (NHBC) or equivalent insurer. The NHBC will prepare a report on the items that require attention and give the builder a time limit in which to carry them out. If they fail to do so, the NHBC will arrange for the works to be done and will recover their costs from the builder.

3. Ten year ‘Buildmark’ warranty.

The NHBC cover around 80% of new build homes. This provides cover for structural issues in years 3 – 10 of ownership. It is, in the NHBC’s own words;

“insurance to cover the cost of putting right physical damage in specified areas of your home such as damage to floors, staircases, roofs, drains, windows and doors”. 

What To Do If Something Is Wrong

Upon moving in

Complete your snagging list and return it to the builder as directed. The builder will discuss the snags with you.

After the snagging list has been done, but before 2 years has elapsed.

In the first instance you should contact your builder.
Most housebuilders will have a customer care department who you will be able to speak to report any concerns. Failure to notify them of any issues and allow them to inspect the property in the first instance will mean that the NHBC will be unwilling to get involved.

After the initial 2 year period

It is still worth notifying your builder that you intend to contact the NHBC if you experience any structural issues. Snags will no longer be dealt with at this stage. 

Preventing Problems

In certain circumstances, the housebuilder is entitled to refuse to assist with any snags or defects. This is predominantly the case where the new homeowner has failed to adhere to recommendations and advice on owning a new build property. Often claims are brought through the courts where there is a refusal to assist, but such claims are unlikely to be successful where a homeowner has simply failed to adhere to advice. It may be that their actions have resulted in the damage complained of.

Luckily, nearly all ‘common’ problems can be eradicated by taking some very simple steps. The most common snags are:

1. Cracks caused by drying out
2. Condensation and mould damage
3. Damage caused by redecorating.


“Drying out”

When you move into a new build property which is covered by the NHBC, you will be provided with various documents, including a Guide to your New Home. This booklet provides some basic information on the quirks and requirements of ‘running in’ a new build property to prevent any ‘drying out’ issues.

A new build property is full of moisture. This occurs naturally in substances such as plaster and timber. The property needs to dry out gradually, usually over a period of 9 months to 1 year. As the materials dry, small cracks in the walls and joinery may appear as a result of shrinkage.

In order to keep these cracks to a minimum, you should try to maintain an even temperature throughout the property and avoid high temperatures which will accelerate and exaggerate shrinkage. It is also important to try to keep the property well ventilated by opening windows / trickle vents to allow natural airflow.

If these steps are followed, shrinkage can be minimised and can usually be remedied easily during routine redecoration or with a coat of paint and some ordinary filler.

Condensation and mould

Condensation occurs where water vapour comes into contact with a cold surface and condenses. This can lead to mould if it is not managed correctly.

Condensation levels are linked to the moisture content of the property, but can also be caused by everyday activities. Things such as steam from cooking; taking a shower or drying clothes on radiators can all contribute to condensation levels.

It is important to monitor condensation and take steps to prevent mould from becoming an issue. The NHBC booklet contains some practical steps to minimise condensation such as covering pans with lids when cooking, opening windows, avoiding drying clothes indoors and using an extractor fan when in the shower.


It is advisable to wait until the drying out process has finished before redecorating the property. That way, any cracks will have appeared and can be covered up, and it saves further work down the line.

If you feel strongly about changing the colour scheme, use breathable emulsion paints which still allow the walls to dry out and if unsure, check with your builder.
This article was written and supplied by Legal Studio, law firm based in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

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Publish date: 18/08/2016