New NHBC standards ready for uplift in home building

20th December 2019

The housing sector is closing the year on a high, with news that the number of homes delivered annually in England has risen to the highest level in nearly 30 years, according to figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

A total of 241,130 net additional homes were recorded in the year to March 2019, a rise of 9% on the year and larger than the previous high of 223,530 delivered in 2007/08 prior to the financial crash.

Although these figures mean the government is on track to meet its target of a million new homes between 2015 and 2020, a significant increase in building, conversion and development of homes will be needed if the target of delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s is to be met.

Removal of uncertainty will boost housing sector

Reflecting the need for an increase in house building activity in 2020, new standards from the National House Building Council (NHBC), a provider of warranty and insurance, will come into force for every new home registered with NHBC where foundations were started on or after 1 January 2020.

The NHBC currently insures more than 1.5 million homes and has provided warranty for around 30% of the total existing housing stock in the UK.

The organisation’s main warranty and insurance product is Buildmark, which covers new homes from before they are built through to the end of the 10th year following legal completion by the first homeowner.

Builders and developers register with the NHBC so they can offer Buildmark warranty and insurance cover on the new homes they build, hoping to sell their homes faster, thanks to the confidence instilled in buyers when they understand the protection offered.

Standards raised again for new homes

The standards team at the NHBC has spent the last 12 months working closely with stakeholders from across the construction industry to develop fresh technical content and updates to form the new 2020 standards.

Whilst there have been a host of minor technical and editorial changes, the main areas of the standards that have seen changes include:

  • Chapter 6.6 on ‘Staircases’, which addresses issues such as handrails and fixing
  • Chapter 9.1 on ‘A consistent approach for finishes’, which offers new guidance to help clarify the guidance and improve tolerances where appropriate

The focus on quality of output is important given the challenges faced within the housebuilding sector, where the need to increase housing output is tempered by the on-going skills shortage, with no signs of this problem abating in the near future.

The NHBC states it is committed to improving quality for those people living in brand new homes across the UK, reducing construction defects, improving homeowner satisfaction and avoiding the need for costly and invasive remedial work.

Despite these assurances, as experienced professionals working with buyers of new homes, we always recommend undertaking a structural/building survey, regardless of whether the property is a modern 2-bedroom townhouse or a 6-bedroom executive home on a gated estate.

Problems that only appear years later

A survey will highlight any serious issues that could lead to major problems during ownership and could ultimately affect the property’s future value. Badly fitted damp proof courses, or poorly applied render might not be obvious to a buyer, but will undoubtedly cause trouble in future.

Despite the new Standards 2020, it’s important not just to rely on the NHBC warranty, which can prove difficult to make a claim with and offers very limited cover after two years. It is always best to appoint a chartered surveyor to undertake a full structural/building survey.

So, if you are considering purchasing a new build property with or without the Buildmark warranty, please speak to David Alexander, an associate solicitor in our Residential Conveyancing team on 01543 267 195 or email