A Holyrood committee is today calling for more support for new build homeowners who discover building defects and poor build quality.
In its report on Building Regulations and Fire Safety in Scotland, the Local Government & Communities Committee also supports further inspections of high rise domestic buildings and the creation of a national inventory of such buildings.
For new build properties, the committee wants to see more regular use of "clerks of works" to inspect buildings under construction, who they say have a "positive impact" in driving up build quality and in enabling defects to be addressed as they arise. "We note the evidence we received that they are used by some local authorities and may be increasingly used by some building companies, however, we consider that clerks of works should be used more often than at present", the report states.
The report also discusses fees for inspections, and whether there should be mandatory inspections along with penalties or sanctions for proceeding without the relevant building control warrant or subsequent inspections identified by Building Standards.
Regarding rights of homebuyers, the report summarises: "We consider that new build purchasers should receive more support and information on the process of buying a new build home including:
- the role of building standards in assessing compliance with building regulations (rather than directly assessing the quality of the work);
- their rights and responsibilities in terms of how to reassure themselves regarding build quality; and
- what to do in the event of defects or disputes arising in relation to their new build home.
"We therefore recommend that the Scottish Government considers ways in which this additional support can be provided including through:
- more standardised missives or contracts;
- enhanced consumer advice and support;
- working with local authorities to more clearly articulate the role of building standards verification and certification; and
- access to an ombudsman to mediate when disputes arise."
Committee convener Bob Doris MSP commented: “It is understandably distressing for homeowners to subsequently discover that their brand new home has serious building defects. A new home can be the purchase of a lifetime and that’s why finding any kind of significant issue can be utterly devastating.
“Our committee heard directly from homeowners and some said that they discovered their homes did not meet the standards set out in the original building warrant, despite receiving completion certification. They then struggled to get these issues rectified.
“That’s why one of our key recommendations is to give homebuyers much more information on their rights when buying a new build home and what they can do when things go wrong after they have moved in.
“We’ve also called for a clerk of works to become a more familiar face on building sites across Scotland to provide an independent quality check on building compliance, especially on large-scale blocks of accommodation or public sector projects that have significant costs.”
Referring to the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster he added: “We welcome the additional fire safety visits undertaken by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and others to inform and reassure residents.
“The committee is supportive of unannounced inspections as part of the overall approach to national fire safety. We also believe there is a powerful case for the new inventory of high rises in Scotland to be regularly updated and for access to vital safety information to be speedily accessible.
“Our committee will continue to monitor the progress of the Ministerial Working Group as well as providing constructive scrutiny, and our thoughts remain with the families and friends who lost their loved ones in the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”
The report anticipates a full parliamentary debate on its contents.