Dispute Service selected to be the New Homes Ombudsman

The Dispute Service has been awarded the six-month bid to act as the New Homes Ombudsman, the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) has announced.

It means the Dispute Service, known for its work on government-authorised tenancy deposit protection, is now the preferred partner to develop the independent New Homes Ombudsman service.

The development of a new body will provide redress for property purchasers of new build homes that are not meeting their requirements.

The New Homes Ombudsman Service will come on line in the New Year. Buyers of new build homes who are unhappy with their new home, or frustrated with the performance of the developer in handling their complaint will be able to ask the New Homes Ombudsman to review their case. The New Homes Ombudsman Service will independently consider customers’ cases and rule whether there has been a breach of the New Homes Quality Code.

The Dispute Service beat off tough competition to be selected by the New Homes Quality Board following a thorough tender process lasting over six months.

The Ombudsman designate will be Alison MacDougall, who is currently group director of Resolution at The Dispute Service where she heads up the team of adjudicators and resolution executives dealing with disputes between landlords and tenants.

MacDougall has had extensive experience in dispute resolution and ombudsman activities. She helped to establish the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education where she dealt with student complaints about higher education providers.

A law graduate, MacDougall was also a senior investigator at the Police Complaints Authority dealing with serious complaints; including deaths in police custody, and has also worked at the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman.

Natalie Elphicke, chairman of the NHQB and Conservative MP, said: “Consumers rightly expect new homes to be top quality – and to get great customer service too. The ombudsman will be an independent customer guardian, making sure buyers get proper redress if they’ve been sold a shoddy home or suffer from poor customer service.

“A new home is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make and so it is right that we put the strongest protections in place to protect consumers buying a new home.”

“The ombudsman and the powerful New Homes Quality Code will drive up the quality of new homes and improve the service housebuilders provide to their customers.

“The appointment of the Ombudsman is a major milestone. It comes after a six-month long competitive procurement process that was run on public procurement principles. The Dispute Service proved that it had the necessary skills and experience to deliver an effective, efficient and robust New Homes Ombudsman Service. They have a clear plan to create the powerful independent body that new home buyers deserve.”

Steve Harriott, chief executive of The Dispute Service, commented: “We are already working hard to get the New Homes Ombudsman Service up and running.

“We have significant experience of starting new services from scratch so I am confident that we will be ready to launch the scheme in early 2022 and to provide new home buyers with the access to redress that they have been asking for.

“We are determined to work closely with both the New Homes Quality Board and the housebuilding industry to make sure that they fully understand our role and that we can play a key part in helping to raise the standards in the industry.”

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