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Should I have a survey on a flat with a 10-year guarantee?


I am buying a luxury new apartment in prime central London, built by a reputable developer. I’ve been told it comes with a 10-year no-defect guarantee. The estate agent has asked if I will be getting a survey. Given that I have the guarantee, is it still worth getting one done?

Headshot of Laura Conduit, partner at law firm Farrer & Co
Laura Conduit, partner at law firm Farrer & Co

Laura Conduit, partner at law firm Farrer & Co, says she always advises getting a survey done even if the property has a defects guarantee. A survey on a new-build property should cover three areas: a physical building survey reporting on the structure of the apartment and the building; a review of compliance with the planning permission and building regulations; and a snagging list. 

Some buyers opt for a snagging survey only, on the basis that they would seek to rely on the guarantee in the event that any major defects are revealed. In our experience, it is much better to obtain a full survey to ensure there are no issues before the exchange of contracts. It may well be that the survey reveals material defects in the structure of the flat or building, in which case you may decide not to proceed with the purchase of the new build at all.

If the main survey doesn’t reveal anything of concern but the snagging survey flags minor or decorative issues, those faults would be for the developer to remedy, assuming they will agree to do so. Snagging items will be a matter of negotiation. Usually, the developer’s contract would include a provision that any snagging items identified to them will be remedied to your surveyor’s reasonable satisfaction.

Whether you require those items to be remedied before completion, or are happy to allow access for minor works to be completed after you have moved in is up to you. In an ideal world, the developer would also agree to remedy any further defects that are revealed post-completion. That would include defects of a minor decorative nature, including shrinkage cracks, whereas the 10-year guarantee would usually only cover more significant issues.

A standard 10-year new-build guarantee is insurance-backed and should be issued by one of the providers deemed acceptable to the majority of lenders, as set out in the UK Finance Mortgage Lenders Handbook. Your solicitor will report on the detail of what that guarantee does and doesn’t cover. There may be endorsements or exclusions, for example, and an excess could be payable.

Usually, the terms require that you apply to the developer for redress first, and the warranty provider will step in where the developer does not. Typically, there is quite broad cover for the first two years, and then only more major structural inherent defects are covered for the remaining eight years.

The Building Safety Act will extend the current lender requirement for new-builds to have a 10-year guarantee, making this a statutory requirement for all new-builds and for the period of cover to be 15 years. However, this part of the legislation is not yet in force.

Can I launch an asbestos claim against a former employer?

I am in my mid-50s and spent the first decade of my career as a labourer. In recent months I have experienced severe respiratory health problems and have been told that it could have been due to contact with asbestos at work. I am told that I could have a significant financial claim against a former employer, but I don’t know where to start. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Headshot of Paul Webber, head of asbestos litigation at JMW Solicitors
Paul Webber, head of asbestos litigation at JMW Solicitors

Paul Webber, head of asbestos litigation in the London office of JMW Solicitors, says that the asbestos industry continues to leave its legacy almost a century after the first regulations were enacted in 1931. Asbestos-related disease symptoms do not usually reveal themselves until several decades after a person has been in contact with asbestos dust.

You are correct that you may have a case against any employer who exposed you to asbestos fibres. A claim can be brought for mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. 

This is a very niche area so you should choose a specialist solicitor, who will give an initial free consultation. You must not delay seeking expert legal advice as strict time limits apply. Your solicitor’s legal fees will be paid by the other side if successful and written off if not; no lawyer should take money from an asbestos victim.

You should not be concerned if you lack paperwork from your past jobs. HM Revenue & Customs has a record of all PAYE employers as far back as 1961. If the employer has ceased trading, solicitors investigate its insurance position through a database — it became compulsory for employers to take out employee protection insurance in 1972.

Sometimes the culprit is a worksite occupier rather than an employer but, typically, a case for an asbestos illness is handled by an insurance company. We encourage them to be as swift as possible and, in the main, the claim is settled out of court. 

If court action is necessary, a specialist judge will be appointed and order that the case is dealt with speedily. The court will ask your opponent to explain whether they took any preventive measures. Most offenders have no defence of any merit and if that applies here, the judge will award judgment in your favour, meaning you have won your case. Rest assured; you will not have to travel to court. Arrangements will be made for you to give evidence from home. 

Compensation can be significant and includes an amount for your pain and suffering and, as you are of working age, any loss of salary can be claimed. The cost of any private medical treatment is recoverable. This is not an exhaustive list; there are other losses you can seek from the defendant.

Generally, asbestosis and pleural thickening cases attract settlements of £20,000 to £60,000. Mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer will be greater than £100,000, much higher if there are claims for loss of salary, private treatment and care needs, or if you have dependants. 

The opinions in this column are intended for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. The Financial Times Ltd and the authors are not responsible for any direct or indirect result arising from any reliance placed on replies, including any loss, and exclude liability to the full extent.

Do you have a financial dilemma that you’d like FT Money’s team of professional experts to look into? Email your problem in confidence to yourquestions@ft.com.

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