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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10401
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I have property on a housing estate (built 4 years ago) in

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I have property on a housing estate (built 4 years ago) in Chichester and have a dispute with the builder regarding Latent Defects. We are keen to understand the proper route we should take to compel the builders to shoulder their responsibilities.
Should we commission a professional survey to confirm the issues?
In your experience is it best to start the ball rolling with a solicitors letter?
What funding should be set aside for legal costs?

Is the builder a limited company and/or is the builder of substantial financial standing? That’s something you have to consider because you could take the builder to court and the builder goes bust and you would end up with an empty victory.

Normally, latent defects like this would be dealt with under the NHBC certificate or one of the insured schemes although that will normally only covered structural defects. These insurance and certificate type guarantee companies will always try to wriggle out of paying. If they try to wriggle out, then make a formal complaint and if it is not resolved after 8 weeks, refer the whole matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service as a complaint.

Ultimately, if the builder developer will not put whatever is wrong, right, then you are faced with court.

If you are going to go to court, you are going to need hard evidence and hence, before even going to the solicitor, I would suggest that you got a professional report to detail exactly the nature of the damage, how it’s been caused in the expert opinion and what it’s going to cost to put right.

Then you can send the solicitors letter.

Rule of thumb is that you should put aside at least as much in solicitors costs is the amount of the claim to pay the other side in the event that you lose and add to that, your own solicitors costs however much they are. Hence, the worst scenario if you lose a claim is that it could cost you up to twice the amount of the claim. It’s not an exact science because it depends on the amount of work but as a very very broad rule of thumb, it’s not far out. You may have legal expenses insurance attached to your house insurance that would pay the legal costs in the event that your claim is not successful.

You may get a solicitor to deal with this on a no win no fee basis but I think unlikely.

The most important thing at this stage is independent evidence.

Can I clarify anything for you?

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Best wishes.


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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for your answer which is helpful.
Are there time limits?
Is small claims court (up to £10k) an option?

The time limit is 6 years from the date of knowledge of the defect subject to a long stop date of 15 years from when the work was done.

In your case therefore, the time limit is six years from when the fault became evident.

By all means take it to the Small Claims Court which will at least remove the risk that you pay any costs in the event that your claim is not successful.

Best wishes