You’ve made the bold move of becoming a homeowner and finally have a place to call home. But, what if your dream home turned into your biggest nightmare? In past months, homeowners who have purchased property in affordable township developments, have brought to light shoddy workmanship by property developers.
Building work can be expensive and complicated. If you feel that your home hasn’t been completed to a quality standard, it is important to know that you are protected. The National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) is a statutory body established to protect consumers’ interests and regulates the home building industry.
Are you buying, building or preparing to occupy your new home? The NHBRC has some useful tips to protect you from poor building workmanship:
TIPS WHEN OCCUPYING A HOUSE
It is worthwhile to take a systematic approach to your inspection. Start with the interior and move from room to room. Afterwards, move to the exterior of the home.
Building work can be expensive and complicated. If you feel that your home hasn’t been completed to a quality standard, it is important to know that you are protected.
If you bring along a checklist, share it with your builder representative as you move through each room. This way, you can check off items together.
Poor weather can hamper exterior inspections. If this is the case, make arrangements with your builder representative to complete the exterior inspection at another time.
NHBRC inspectors concentrate on structural aspects of construction and not contractual finishes, like carpets, colour of paint, etc. It is therefore important to inspect your new home carefully throughout when you move in paying careful attention to:
· All sanitary ware (taps, toilet fittings, etc.);
· fireplace surrounds;
· whether the extras you ordered have been provided;
· whether doors and windows open and close properly;
· whether all services (electricity and water) are connected and are in working condition;
· whether you have keys to all the locks and that they work;
· waking sure you have been shown where various stop valves and main electrical switches are located.
Also check the site to make sure that:
· The boundaries are correctly and clearly marked;
· it has been cleared of debris;
· all contractual work/finishes are correct.
If any of these are not as they should be, put it in writing to the home builder. Do not rely receiving a response to verbal complaints.
Some home builders will ask you to sign a form saying that everything is in order. This is reasonable, because the time to report a crack in a pane of glass or a chip in the bath must be on the date of entry. It will be impossible to say who caused the damage at a later stage.
Housing Consumer Complaints
The NHBRC complaints procedure aims to:
· Ensure home builders meet their obligations under the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act No. 95 of 1998.
· Assess applications made by homeowners seeking assistance from the NHBRC for the rectification of major structural defects.
· Detect contraventions of the Act that require disciplinary action or prosecution.
The NHBRC deals with three types of complaints:
1. Three-month non-compliance period
If a complaint relates to the three-month non-compliance period, and you have notified the home builder, the NHBRC will seek to resolve the complaint telephonically and through correspondence with the home builder. We will pursue the home builder to ensure that it meets its obligations to you in terms of Section 13 (2) (iii) of the Act. These require the home builder to rectify defects within three months of the date of occupation. Rectification of minor defects will be undertaken by the home builder, not the NHBRC.
2. One-year roof-leak period
The home builder provides you with a one-year warranty against roof leaks upon occupation of your new home. If you experience a roof leak in your home within one year from the date of occupation, and the home builder has failed to respond to the complaint, the NHBRC will notify the home builder and seek an immediate response. Failing this, we may issue a request for conciliation. The home builder has an obligation, in terms the Act, to rectify roof leaks that you have brought to its notice within one year.
3. Five-year major-structural-defects period
Where you lodge a complaint that relates, in the opinion of Council, to a possible major structural defect, the NHBRC may seek the home builder's response, in terms of the Act. We may immediately issue you with a request for conciliation as well as a prescribed refundable conciliation deposit from you. The conciliation deposit will be refunded once the complaint has been dealt with, unless the complaint is found to be frivolous.
Step by step complaints procedure
Both you and the home builder must try to resolve your differences in a reasonable manner before referring a complaint to the NHBRC.
Before submitting a complaint to the NHBRC, you should:
· Notify the home builder in writing of all the complaints requiring attention within the applicable time periods, set out in Section 13 (2) (b) of the Act.
· Keep a copy of the letter of complaint and proof of the date that it was sent to the home builder.
· Allow the home builder reasonable access to the property in order to fix the defects.
· Ensure that all financial obligations to the home builder are met.
You may refer a complaint to the NHBRC if any of the following conditions apply:
· The home builder does not respond within the periods specified below under “home builder response times”.
· The home builder fails to honour its obligations.
· There is an unresolved dispute between you and the home builder regarding the extent of the home builder’s liability.
Home builder response times
The home builder must respond within specific periods, from the time it receives the complaint. These response times are as follows:
· Three-month non-compliance - 21 working days
· One-year roof leak - 7 working days
· Five-year major structural defect - 7 working days
· Deposit theft or irregularity - Refer complaint to Commercial Crime Unit
· Contractual disputes - refer to your legal representative or attorney
For more information visit www.nhbrc.org.za