Building? This is how long you have until defects are your problem
There is no user manual for all aspects of homeownership, from moving, to taking occupation and to maintaining and understanding common and uncommon defects. Albert van Wyk has more than 38 years’ worth of building experience and has put all he has learned into a concise, easy-to-use reference book entitled, The Proud Home Owner. He has granted HomeTimes exclusive access to republish portions of his book to help homeowners make better decisions around buying and selling, as well as maintaining their properties.
A new house must be built by a home builder who is registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council. Obtain confirmation from the NHBRC that the contractor you have selected is in good standing, confirm their membership and ask for a copy of their membership certificate and ensure that it is current. It is a legal requirement that a new home must be enrolled with the NHBRC at least three weeks before construction is started and the original certificate should be given to you in order for you to forward it to the bank. (Please make sure that you keep a copy of this document, just like all the other documents which you hand in at the bank). The bank needs this before any money will be paid over to the contractor and some banks will need this document before the bond can be registered.
There is a penalty fee for late registration. It is the responsibility of the contractor to do the registration, but the homeowner is liable to pay the required registration fee. Ensure that this clause is in the building contract.
The NHBRC warranty fund was established to cover consumers’ claims against major and defined structural defects for a period of up to five years.
The building contractor is obliged and committed to do the following:
Rectify all major structural defects, including the roof structure, which manifest within a period of five years from date of occupation.
Repair roof leaks which are attributable to workmanship, design or materials which occur within 12 months from date of occupation.
Rectify any deficiency related to design, workmanship or materials within a period of three months from date of occupation.
The above clauses must be included in your building contract. It will provide the owner protection against substandard workmanship or when poor quality material is used.
Did you know: You cannot register a contract with the NHBRC when alterations or additions are done to the house because they do not have any jurisdiction over this aspect. This will fall under the jurisdiction of the local council only. For this reason, it is imperative that you obtain a professional person to do quality control on your project.
If a builder is unable or unwilling to rectify the defects, the NHBRC can rectify the defects after a legal complaint has been submitted.
An NHBRC inspector should carry out inspections during the construction period and if they identify a deviation from their building guidelines, a non-compliance certificate will be issued to the builder who is then obliged to rectify these deviations within a specific time. Should the builder be unable or unwilling to rectify these deviations, the NHBRC will stop the construction and institute disciplinary action.
You may report any deviations from the guidelines or poor workmanship to the NHBRC for investigation. Keep in mind that you have paid the enrolment fee and are entitled to their support and protection, and not for them to protect the contractor.
Visit the NHBRC website for more details and information regarding the contractor.
Sign on the dotted line…
Before you sign your building contract, ask for a copy of the contractor’s registration certificate and make sure he is in good standing. His membership is only valid for a year, so make a note when the current certificate expires and ask him for a copy of his new certificate when it is due again. Encourage the contractor to comply with the guidelines of the NHBRC at all times, because that is what you will expect from them.
National Building Regulations
I have used the National Building Regulations and the NHBRC Building Manuals as my guidelines. The building regulations are constantly under review in order to improve the building standards and to accommodate new trends in the industry. I have in no way changed or diverted from their minimum requirements but have in some cases set higher standards, because I think it is necessary.
It sounds exiting to build your dream home according to your personal taste, but I would like to bring some of the possible risks to your attention.
The competence of the contractor is critical as everything hinges on that. His track record must be checked. Invest some of your valuable time in looking at his previous work and talking to those owners.
The quality of the workmanship is the most important issue: Everybody uses the same bricks, sand and cement but everyone gets different results. It could happen that a client might sing a builder’s praises but you won’t agree. The reason for that is because we all have different standards of acceptance. There are no written rules about what is acceptable and what is not, however your standards will apply on your site and not anybody else’s.
Average-priced tiles which are well laid look better than the most expensive tiles which are poorly laid. It is not always possible to rectify mistakes afterwards and you might end up having to accept these mistakes and literally live with them. A wall which is out of square or out of plumb is only noticed when the tiling is done. A skew door or window frame is only discovered while the painting is done. Supervision and quality control by an experienced foreman and yourself is therefore vitally important. The contractor must be made aware of the fact that you will demand high-quality workmanship and that this is not negotiable.
Please note that the fact that he is registered with NHBRC is not a guarantee that you will get good workmanship. The contractors are not rated and all are currently graded the same. However, in the future this might be changed.
Take time and calculate how much extra it will cost you for every month that the completion of the project is delayed. You could then be paying for two properties, as well as interest on money paid while the contractor is taking his time finishing the project. There should be a carefully worded penalty clause in the contract to cover you. Do make sure that you are not causing delays with your decisions and changes to the plan or specifications. Ask the contractor to give you a list of due dates for the various decisions you need to make, such as when he needs to have kitchen design, choice of sanitary ware, choice of tiles and carpets.
It is important that the contractor compiles a construction programme and that you both monitor progress weekly. You must determine the reasons when there are constant delays. It could be due to a variety of reasons such as poor supervision and the workers not working at full capacity. Download a sample from Gauteng Home Inspections.
It could be that material is always late or running short because the contractor has a cash flow problem. The contractor could be busy on too many sites at the same time and the client who complains the most, gets the most attention and work done.
The late completion of contracts is the single biggest concern for the NHBRC.
Next time: Choosing a contractor and did you know about all the contracts you can have with your builder?