For many people, buying a Housing Association new build flat on a shared ownership lease is their way into owning their home. But sadly we are hearing from more and more people who have found that their home suffers from build problems and repair failings. In some cases the problems have even made the flat uninhabitable.
Common problems raised by shared ownership leaseholders include
- Leaks and water damage from balconies above
- Plumbing problems causing damp and water damage
- Problems with windows and doors not fitting
- Mould growth due to poorly installed or missing insulation in the walls
- Problems with hot water and heating supplies
- Overheated flats, even when the heating is off, due to design or build problems
When leaseholders try to get these problems sorted out, they often find themselves caught between the housing association, the builder, and NHBC, with responsibility apparently passed from one to the other. Repairs are attempted, but are botched or are inadequate. Delays and denials build up, sometimes for years.
To add insult to injury, because shared ownership leaseholders might only own a share, but are responsible for 100% of the service charges, they can find their charges increased by the costs of the repeated, bodged repairs.
And then no-one will take responsibility for build defects.
What can be done?
Repairs under the lease
If the housing association owns the whole block, it is likely that the lease puts the responsibility to repair and maintain the structure of the building, the common parts, common plumbing and block heating supply on them. This is their obligation to the shared ownership leaseholder under the lease and they are responsible for it. If the repairs aren’t done, or aren’t done adequately, within a reasonable time, the housing association are in breach of their lease obligations. The leaseholder can bring a claim to make them meet their obligations and do the repairs properly, as well as pay compensation for any losses and living with the effects of the problems.
It doesn’t matter that the housing association might try to blame the builder or contractor, or try to insist it is an NHBC matter. If it is a breach of their obligations, they are responsible.
Some problems like overheating, or inadequate heating, or mould caused by bad design or building faults causing condensation, will possibly not be a ‘repair’ problem and so not part of the lease obligations. This means that a claim under the lease may not be possible.
However, there are ways to get these addressed by the housing association.
If the share of the flat was bought before the building was finished, there may well have been a ‘sale agreement’ or ‘Agreement for a lease’ signed by the purchaser before the purchase was complete. Those agreements may include warranties that the property would be of good standard and fit for habitation. That is a contract, so if the property doesn’t meet those terms, the leaseholder can bring a claim for breach of contract.
In addition, the Defective Premises Act 1972 contains a requirement that anyone constructing a residential property must do so in a workmanlike and professional manner so that it will be fit for habitation when completed. If it isn’t, then the leaseholder may have a claim against the builder or the housing association if the block was built for them.
But time is key.
Any claim under an agreement for a lease, or sale agreement must be brought within 6 years of the date of that agreement.
Any claim under the Defective Premises Act for build quality must be brought within 6 years of the building being completed.
Sadly, many shared ownership leaseholders get caught up in a circle of complaints, referrals to the builders, or managing agents, or NHBC claims, attempted repairs and delays, so that years can pass and they can find themselves out of time to make a claim on build quality problems.
Sometimes legal action is the best way to cut through this cycle, but it must be within time.