So you have just moved in and have noticed that defects are popping up left right and centre? What do you do?
Some things are definitely defects, some are not. Find out the common defects and know what is what.
Once you have been handed the keys to your brand new home you generally have a standard 13 week defects period. BUT did you know, that this 13 week period is only the contractually agreed period. By law, the Builder must guarantee their work for a period of 6 years for any “major defect” (being defects to a major element of the house) and a period of 2 years for all other defects. This is all covered under the Home Building Act 1989 (NSW).
Although the defect period is generally 13 weeks, you should check with your builder as the timeframe may vary from builder to builder. Some builders offer a liability period over 6 months. No matter what time period you have, you should use this time to do a thorough walkthrough of each room of your home and note down any items of concern you may have.
Some important defects you should pay particular attention to are:
In new homes concrete cracking is common and is not necessarily attributed to poor workmanship. However, severe/large concrete cracking is defective and is found where your builder has not left sufficient allowances for shrinkage or general movement. Causes of cracking in concrete include shrinkage, stress, vehicles, drainage issues and soil movement.
Most new houses contain moisture and once the house starts to settle and moisture dries out you may notice some cracking. In most cases small cracking will not affect the structural integrity of your home. However, if you are concerned, you should get your builder to inspect it. If the cracking is serious, get it inspected by an engineer.
Tiles are easily cracked or chipped before handover and can easily be missed in the excitement of your handover. If one or more of your tiles need to be replaced, it is important for the builder to use the spare tiles that you have been left with as they have come from the same batch. If tiles are replaced with a different batch they may be a different shade as no batch of tiles are the same. Where your builder has to match tiles that are no longer available, the use of a slightly different tile is not defective if it agreed between both parties to be used.
Grout is found to be defective if it is not uniform in colour, smooth, without voids, pinholes or low spots. If you have used a dark grout it can easily be discoloured when cleaning. You should make sure that the grout has not become damaged on the final clean of the home before handover and once you start cleaning them be sure not to use harsh chemicals.
Stone bench tops are strong however, cracking can occur if care is not taken. The main causes of cracking are heat and weight. Extreme heat over time eg ironing on the bench, hot pots and pans and weight (such as placing children on the bench or standing on the bench to reach overhead cupboards or to change a light bulb) can also cause cracking. Unfortunately, any damage caused by you will generally not be covered by the builder.
If you discover variations in the colour, texture and finish of walls - it will only constitute a defect if the discolouration or finish is visible over 1.5 metres away and viewed in natural light. Any small blemishes within 1.5 metres are considered within acceptable industry standard.
The owner is responsible for making warranty service calls directly to the manufacturer unless the defect is caused by faulty workmanship. All of your appliances will come with a manufacturer’s warranty and this will be provided to you on handover. You should make sure you get a copy of all the relevant warranties and if there is an issue, contact the manufacturer directly to arrange replacement or repair of the appliance.
If you experience any gas or water leaks (no matter how minor) you should not wait until the end of your 13 week defect period to get this fixed. You should contact your builder immediately.
At the end of your 13 week period send a list of concerns to your builder and they will arrange for someone to inspect those items and determine whether they are a defect. All items that deemed a defect will be rectified by the builder or the builder’s tradespeople at their cost.
If a dispute arises about the standard of workmanship or whether an item is considered a defect, there is a dispute resolution process that is available with NSW Fair Trading. You can instigate a mediation process where a suitable resolution to both parties will try to be reached. If the matter cannot be resolved, then the dispute may be referred to a building inspector or the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.