How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Joshua Your Own Question
Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 26069
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
35043042
Type Your Law Question Here...
Joshua is online now

We are purchasing a brand new house using a part exchange scheme.

Resolved Question:

We are purchasing a brand new house using a part exchange scheme. Few days before exchanging contracts we've been informed that safety bars will have to be fitted in the new house upstairs windows. This is so the house could pass certifications.

The builders must have known that this particular type house has a design defect (they have sold the same design house last year or earlier and had to fit the safety bars), but didn't inform us about it until the very last minute.
If we knew about this requirement, we wouldn't have proceeded to buy this house.

If we pull out of the house purchase now, we will have to pay a lot of solicitor fees.

Please advice what we shall do?

Obviously we don't want to live in the house with bars on the windows.
Builders have informed us that we could remove the bars ourselves after the completion.
However we feel that value of our house will be greatly affected when we need to sell it in the future, because the windows are too low and this doesn't meet the safety regulations.

There's also other concern - if we remove the bars and somebody will fall out, then we will be liable.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 3 years ago.

Joshua :

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

Joshua :

May I clarify for the avoidance of doubt that you have not yet exchanged contracts please?

Customer:

No, we haven't exchanged contracst as we are waiting for a mortgage offer from our bank. All signed paperwork is with our solicitors and ready to go as soon as the mortgage is sorted.

Joshua :

Thanks.

Joshua :

Do you have any evidence as to the point at which the builder became aware of the issue please? Are the windows contrary to the specification of the house?

Customer:

We didn't see anything in the house specifications that upstairs windows will need bars. Sales advisor informed us late last week about the bars. We met with her last Saturday and she told us that the bars will need to be fitted to meet the regulations. She also told that they had to do the same thing to the house that they have sold earlier.

Joshua :

Thanks. The position contractually is that you have no contract with the seller until contracts are exchanged and either of you are accordingly free to walk away from the transaction. Equally however it follow that you have no claim against the seller for loss as there is no contract. This is regularly cited frustration of the English house buyer process however it is what it is. Because the house is a new build however there is an important caveat to the above.

Customer:

We have wrote about this to our solicitors and asked if the builders will remove the bars after the completion. We have received reply that we will have to do this ourselves at our own expense.

Joshua :

The house builder has obligations under the Consumer Code for Housebuilders. Under the same among other things he must prior to contracts being exchanged provide you with among other things a brochure or plan reliably showing the layout, appearance and plot position of the Home; a list of the Home’s contents and confirmation of the standards and specification to which the Home is being built.


a brochure or plan reliably showing the layout, appearance and

plot position of the Home;



a list of the Home’s contents;



the standards to which the Home is being built.
Customer:

If we walk away now, they might charge us for their expenses since they started selling my old house already

Joshua :

Appolgies for the dodgy formatting above. Please ignore this.

Customer:

Brochure didn't show any safety bars for the windows.

Joshua :

Accordingly if they failed to supply you with these items or you can show that they gave you incorrect information you may have a complaint under the above consumer code. If you consider you do you can initially make a complaint to the developer. They must respond to you fully. If you are not satisifed with the outcome of your complaint there is an independent complaints adjudicator available which they must provide you with details for and you can ask that the adjudicator makes an independent determination. They have the power to award up to £15K in compensation typically and can award monies both for financial loss and inconvenience. There are some fees associated with using the adjudicator - £100 to make a complaint and then £300 if the matter proceeds to a full determination.

Joshua :

If incorrect information was given then your reservation deposit if paid must also be refunded. The developer cannot claim against you for its own legal costs prior to exchange of contracts.

Joshua :

This is a link to the code:
http://www.consumercodeforhomebuilders.com/code.php

Customer:

OK, but we will have to pay our solicitors their costs.

Joshua :

Quite. This would presumably form the basis of any complaint you choose to make under the Consumer Code - i.e. the financial loss you claim you have suffered if you consider the builder has breached the above requirements of the code.

Joshua :

Is there anything above I can clarify for you any further?

Customer:

yes, we intend to ask builders for a compensation. Since our house sale price will be affected.

Joshua :

Can I clarify how your house sale price will be effected?

Joshua :

*affected?

Customer:

If we purchase the house that doesn't meet safety regulations and then in the future somebody will fall out of the window, will we be liable?

Joshua :

Are you mean the new house sale price?

Customer:

yes

Joshua :

Thanks. If you were to decide to proceed with the purchase with the bars in situ you may consider that this is a basis to revisit the purchase price on the basis that the bars devalue the aesthetic appearance of the dwelling. If you proceeded with the purchase you cannot subsequently claim compensation after completion so if you wish to build in an element of compensation it is important to renegotiate the price before you exchange contracts.

Customer:

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX do that.

Joshua :

If someone were to fall out of the windows, you could be potentially held liable if it could be shown that the windows were dangerous without the bars in place. If the windows do pose a potential danger you could potentially reduce the risk by putting up a sign however you are unlikely to want to have signs displayed in your home. Accordingly you may consider fitting window restrainers so that the windows can only be opened so far prventing anyone climbing out of them. These I believe are relatively easy to retrofit.

Customer:

Thank you.

Joshua :

In terms of building regulations, these cannot be enforced after 12 months from completion so legally you could remove the bars after this period just giving consideration to the safety issues as above.

Joshua :

Can I help you with anything else?

Customer:

Could we remove the bars straight after the completion?

Joshua :

Bear in mind the council can take enforcement action for up to 12 month from completion so this would be potentially risky. You could be ordered to replace them by the council. They can extend this period if they can show work is dangerous but have to get a court order and they rarely bother unless work is a danger to public

Customer:

OK, so if we fit restrainers so the windows don't open enough for somebody to fall out, then we will be OK?

Joshua :

I cannot see why not. It may not comply with building regulations specifically but these are of more limited significance after 12 months. Certainly restrainers would deal with any possible liability issues of someone falling from the windows. Ideally you would wait 12 months before removing the bars from the date of the building regulation certificate unless you are willing to take the risk that the council will enforce against you.

Customer:

Thank you. I don't think we would want to take this risk.

Joshua :

Finally just check with your solicitor that there is no covenant preventing you changing the appearance of the property without the builders consent. If there is ensure you obtain written permission from the builders before you exchange to do so.

Joshua :

Are you happy with the information I have provided to you above or is there anything above I can clarify for you any further?

Customer:

I'm happy. Thank you.

Joshua :

If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with though please reply back to me though.

Joshua and other Law Specialists are ready to help you