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defects liability period



The Defects Liability Period – What happens when I move in and things don’t work properly?


Building a new home is often one of the biggest happenings in your life, and it’s normal that you’re thinking through the what-if’s and the could-be’s, trying to sort out fear from fact. And we agree, we reckon it’s important that you do this thinking before you take the plunge because as they say a job well planned is a job half done.


And so this question is running through your mind – what on earth will happen if we move in and the hot water service doesn’t work on the first night? The last thing I want is a cold shower after a heavy day of moving in! Fair question! Thats where the defects liability period comes into play.


Let’s just look at things from a 10,000 foot view for a minute. Building a home is a complex process, involving thousands of items, and countless hours building it, not to mention all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep it all ticking along. But manufacturing a new car is also complex, so what’s the difference?


The difference is that , with cars, the teething problems are ironed out in the prototypes they make and they test each and every car as it comes off the production line, so when you get it, it’s all sorted. But it may not have been right to roll straight off the production line the first time around – there may have been things to fix first.


With a home, every single home is different, even if only slightly different. Every home is built on a different site. At different times. And, as the builder, we don’t get to live in the home for a couple of weeks to test it all out – you get that privilege.


So down to the nitty gritty, what actually happens when you move in and that proverbial hot water service fails? Under building law, every builder must provide a 3 month workmanship warranty (also known as the defects liability period and other similar phrases). Bear in mind that this is different from a structural guarantee – that’s for a much longer period and is more to do with the structure of the home, not the fittings and fixtures.


It’s interesting to consider why the law requires builders to offer a defects liability period. It’s because the little nusiance problems that occur after moving in is a recognised syndrome of building a new home. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it just is. And if any builder tells you that their homes are always going to be perfect when you move in, then ask them if they’re a human being living on earth.


But this doesn’t mean that builders don’t try and get everything spot on – they definitely do try. The electrician goes around and checks that everything works. The plumber pressure tests the water lines for leaks. The carpenters go around and make sure every door and door handle operates perfectly. Even a building inspector comes along at the end of the job and goes through a very thorough checklist to make sure it all complies. And of course, there’s the builder and the customer going through everything with a fine tooth comb time and again.


But hey, we live in an imperfect world, and thus the need for the warranty. So it means that the split second that something goes wrong, you can contact the builder and ask for help. What sort of help you get will depend on the problem. Ie, HWS is down, the builder will contact the plumber. The front door sticks and won’t open; the chippy will come and fix it. One of the ceiling fans wobble and makes a funny noise; the sparky will be out there to sort it out.


Why only 3 months, you say? It’s not to say that nothing will ever go wrong after 3 months, but it’s been recognised at a statutory level that most move-in problems surface within that time frame.


Of course, we’re not talking maintenance here, that’s a different story. To use the car analogy again, the car door mirror might fall off the week you get it which would be a workmanship problem that they’d need to fix at their cost. But general wear and tear due to driving the car is the owners responsibility to pay money to get it maintained and kept in good working order. The same deal goes with a new home. As an example, you’ll need to pay someone to replace the sealant in the corners of your shower every year or two, because the water slowly works away at it and it deteriorates – that’s maintenance, not workmanship.


So, rest easy. If something goes wrong, we’ve got your back covered.

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