Building your dream home? Know your rights

The first recourse on default or non-compliance is that the builder must be requested, in writing, to fix these defects. But if he is not capable or able to rectify the defects, the NHBRC will use its own warranty funds for repair.

The first recourse on default or non-compliance is that the builder must be requested, in writing, to fix these defects. But if he is not capable or able to rectify the defects, the NHBRC will use its own warranty funds for repair.

After much consideration and thought, you and your spouse have decided to build a brand new home. Immediately, friends and family will start recounting their unfortunate experiences in this exercise, and you will know you are taking on a daunting yet hopefully rewarding task.

The search for the perfect builder starts, and soon you realise that the project must be managed by a professional builder and not the cheapest quote received that, very likely, will be using unskilled labour.

This is according to Wendy Williams, a director of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa, who says this is exactly the time to contact the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) who are the regulator statutory body of the home building industry, which began operating in March 2001

She says The Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act has been created to provide protection for owners building new homes against so-called fly-by-night builders. That is, builders who either build to an unacceptable quality standard, or builders who refuse to get involved in the rectification of built-in defects in the home.

The Act does this through the creation in law of a regulatory body known as the NHBRC. The council was established to protect the housing consumer from fly-by-night contractors, and this they do by regulating the home building industry.

 

The processes of the Act

1. Ensure that every builder is registered with the NHBRC.

2. Every builder must construct a house in accordance with the technical requirements and technical standards of the NHBRC.

3. All new enrolled homes are provided with a ‘deemed warranty’, requiring the builder, by law, to:

–  Rectify any workmanship related defects that occur in the first three months after occupation.

–  Rectify any roof leaks that occur in the first 12 months after occupation.

–  Rectify any major structural defects that occur in the first five years after occupation.

4. Every house must therefore be enrolled with the NHBRC and the builder will then receive an enrolment certificate. The homeowner must request a copy of the enrolment certificate from the builder. It is the responsibility of the builder to enrol the new home, but you are advised to ask for a copy of the enrolment certificate.

5. The first recourse on default or non-compliance is that the builder must be requested, in writing, to fix these defects. But if he is not capable or able to rectify the defects, the NHBRC will use its own warranty funds for repair.

 

The defining line:

– Workmanship defects (e.g. loose door handles, peeling paint, cracked sinks, etc.) have a warranty of up to three months, and are to be repaired by the contractor.

After that period, it is considered normal wear and tear that needs maintenance by the homeowner. If the contractor does not carry out such repairs, the house consumer should report the builder to the NHBRC who can take action, such as suspend his registration with the council or withdraw the registration of the builder.

– Any issues relating to the structural defects of the house (if the house has serious cracks that would affect the integrity of the house) will be fixed by the NHBRC if they occur within a period of five years. The consumer does not have to employ lawyers, architects or engineers to assist them in the event of a defined structural defect.

– To remedy the faults, the homeowner needs to go back to the builder, which may not be easy due to the negative relationship, but this is the channel that you need to follow. 

Due to the NHBRC enrolment process, however, several benefits can be achieved for the consumer:

1. All homes to be built must comply with the specifications as prescribed in the NHBRC’s Home Builders’ Manual, which sets minimum quality standards.

2. The NHBRC must ensure that foundations have been correctly designed to match the existing soil conditions.

3. All homes must be inspected by the NHBRC Inspectorate to check that the builder is actually complying with the NHBRC requirements on site.

4. If the builder has already closed his business, the NHBRC may use its funds to pay another builder to fix the structural defects.

The NHBRC warranty is strictly only for new homes being built, alterations and additions to existing homes are not covered by the warranty.

Williams says the homeowner should draw up a detailed list of all visible defects and ensure the builder gets a copy of this before signing off the home. Do not occupy the home before doing this.

She says it is essential for the homeowner to ensure that the appointed builder is actually registered first, and that there is a NHBRC written enrolment certificate so that you have some recourse should he not be compliant in following the building regulations and workmanship.

If you don’t check compliance, and problems arise with his workmanship or structural defects, you cannot rely on any warranty benefits from the NHBRC.

Also ask to see the builder’s registration certificate which is valid for a period of one year, she says.

Additionally, the NHBRC will publish and distribute lists of any builders who have been de-registered or suspended. These lists will give the details of the home builder, the number of homes they have built and the number of serious complaints laid against them.

All of this will assist the consumer in the correct choice of their home builder, says Williams.

“When buying a new or relatively new home today, most buyers would want to know whether the house is still covered by a NHBRC warranty, which means this is a huge advantage when you need to sell, and we would strongly advise buyers to request this information.”

Source: property24 – 15 April 2015