If you’re considering residential building work, remember that there are consumer protection measures to help you. Knowing your rights and obligations should help you make informed decisions about your building work.
The National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) is a regulatory body of the home building industry. It was established in 1998 in accordance with the provisions of the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act, 1998 (Act No. 95 of 1998). The council was established to protect the housing consumer from fly-by-night contractors, and this they do by regulating the home building industry.
The mandate is to protect the interests of housing consumers and to ensure that builders comply with the prescribed building industry standards as contained in the Home Building Manual.
The processes of the act
- Ensure that every builder is registered with the NHBRC.
- Every builder must construct a house in accordance with the technical requirements and technical standards of the NHBRC.
- All new enrolled homes are provided with a ‘deemed warranty’, requiring the builder, by law, to:
- Rectify any workmanship-related defects that occur in the first three months after occupation.
- Rectify any roof leaks that occur in the first 12 months after occupation.
- Rectify any major structural defects that occur in the first five years after occupation.
- Every house must therefore be enrolled with the NHBRC, and the builder will then receive an enrolment certificate. The homeowner must request a copy of the enrolment certificate from the builder. It is the responsibility of the builder to enroll the new home, but you are advised to ask for a copy of the enrolment certificate.
- The first recourse on default or non-compliance is that the builder must be requested, in writing, to fix these defects. But if he is not capable or able to rectify the defects, the NHBRC will use its own warranty funds for repair.
The defining line:
Workmanship defects (e.g., loose door handles, peeling paint, cracked sinks, etc.) have a warranty of up to three months, and are to be repaired by the contractor.
After that period, it is considered normal wear and tear that needs maintenance by the homeowner. If the contractor does not carry out such repairs, the house consumer should report the builder to the NHBRC who can act, such as suspend his registration with the council or withdraw the registration of the builder.
Any issues relating to the structural defects of the house (if the house has serious cracks that would affect the integrity of the house) will be fixed by the NHBRC if they occur within a period of five years. The consumer does not have to employ lawyers, architects, or engineers to assist them in the event of a defined structural defect.
To remedy the faults, the homeowner needs to go back to the builder, which may not be easy due to the negative relationship, but this is the channel that you need to follow.
Due to the NHBRC enrolment process, however, several benefits can be achieved for the consumer:
- All homes to be built must comply with the specifications as prescribed in the NHBRC's Home Builders' Manual, which sets minimum quality standards.
- The NHBRC must ensure that foundations have been correctly designed to match the existing soil conditions.
- All homes must be inspected by the NHBRC Inspectorate to check that the builder is complying with the NHBRC requirements on site.
- If the builder has already closed his business, the NHBRC may use its funds to pay another builder to fix the structural defects.
The NHBRC warranty is strictly only for new homes being built, alterations and additions to existing homes are not covered by the warranty.
If you don't check compliance, and problems arise with his workmanship or structural defects, you cannot rely on any warranty benefits from the NHBRC.