Several months ago, Advantage wrote about the government’s shakeup of housing policy, which is intended to ‘empower’ millions of social housing tenants. And this week it has been announced that, in a further move to protect consumers, the New Homes Quality Board will appoint an ombudsman and deliver a ‘step change’ for the buyers of new-builds. The board’s role will be to ensure that developers deliver good quality homes, giving buyers greater consumer protection.
A comprehensive new industry code of practice
The Board (chaired by Natalie Elphicke, OBE) will oversee the introduction of a comprehensive new industry code of practice that will place considerably more responsibility on developers to deliver quality homes and to offer better consumer outcomes. There will also be a New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS) that once operational will provide much needed support for buyers in the event of a dispute.
Its permanently-appointed board members include representatives from consumer bodies, housebuilders, those working in Advantage’s field (providing structural warranties), the finance sector and independents – with a constitution that ensures no one body is dominant.
Plugging gaps in existing consumer protection
The new arrangements will plug the gaps in existing protections and aim to deliver consistently high-quality homes and considerably stronger consumer protections. Access to the NHOS will be free to consumers. All of the new arrangements will be paid for by the house building industry, probably with an annual registration fee and levy based on volumes, with an additional fee for certain referrals to the NHOS.
A step change in how new homes are built and sold
Natalie Elphicke said:
“The new arrangements will lead to a step change in how new homes are built and sold and how customers are treated. The board is committed to driving new build quality and strengthening protections for buyers. A new home is the most important purchase most of us make and it is essential that buyers have confidence in both the product and the processes in place to support them. I would like to thank the industry for its support as we have developed our plans and I firmly believe that ultimately the new arrangements will lead to significant benefits for both consumers and developers.”
Giving peace of mind to homebuyers
Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, added:
“I am delighted to support this new body which will champion good quality homes and give much needed peace of mind for homebuyers with a strong regulator to help them if things go wrong.”
Recent years have seen significant improvements made in build quality and customer service. Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation said:
“The industry is absolutely committed to putting measures in place to help deliver consistently high-quality new homes and effective redress for buyers. Recent years have seen significant improvements made in build quality and customer service and we are determined to go further. Today’s announcement is the next step in a process HBF started some years ago involving a broad range of stakeholders. The proposed arrangements will present the industry with some challenges but will, I believe, ultimately prove of considerable benefit to builders and customers alike.”
A single new code of practice
Essential to the new arrangements will be a single new code of practice – the New Homes Code. The Code’s principles-based approach will place considerably more demands on builders from the sales process through to two years from when buyers move into their new home. It will require developers to have effective complaints procedures in place, with specified timelines within which they have to address any issues that arise with a new home to the consumer’s satisfaction or be potentially subject to a referral to the NHOS. A consultation process on the Code is currently underway with stakeholders.
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