First step taken towards creation of New Homes Ombudsman scheme

Natalie Elphicke MP has been announced as the interim chair of the interim New Homes Quality Board, a new independent body that will have responsibility for the quality of new build homes and consumer redress.

The interim board, consisting of representatives from across the sector has ‘met’ for the first time and will now;

• oversee the composition and appointment of a permanent board;

• the completion, consultation on and adoption of a new comprehensive and robust industry code of practice that will place more stringent requirements on all parties involved in the construction, inspection, sale and aftercare of new homes;

• agree a process to appoint a New Homes Ombudsman service to adjudicate against the new code.

The New Homes Quality Board will be guided by the principles of independence, transparency and integrity and will contain a mix of representatives of consumer bodies, housebuilders, warranty providers, lenders and independents such that it will not be dominated by any one group.

Government has made quite clear that it expects the industry to implement comprehensive new measures to ensure further improvements and consistency in the quality of new homes, better customer service and strengthened consumer redress as a matter of urgency.

The  industry is fully supports this and today’s announcement demonstrates its commitment to delivering a step change in how it operates and deals with customers.

Since the publication of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment report ‘More homes, fewer complaints’ in 2016 (and the subsequent ‘Better redress for home buyers’ report in 2018) the industry has been working with a broad range of stakeholders on the complex arrangements to enable the development of a framework that will include the creation of an ombudsman service – in line with Government requirements and commitments.

Natalie Elphicke was appointed as the independent ‘New Homes Quality Champion’ last summer with a view to progressing arrangements to the point where they can be ‘operationalised’.

Since her election to Parliament she has continued to oversee the development of proposals and the appointment of the interim board.

The ambition is that a permanent chair and board will be in place by Autumn with a view to the new code and ombudsman service being in place by the start of 2021.

There will then be a transition period for builders to sign up to the new arrangements.

It is anticipated Government will ultimately legislate to improve consumer redress as soon as possible and these new proposals aim to complement Government reforms.

Natalie Elphicke said;

“This is a welcome move, and a much needed step in the right direction.

“I am committed to ensuring that the new arrangements will deliver a step change in the quality of new homes and customer experience.

“They will be based in the principles of independence, transparency and integrity, values I know this Government, and the industry, are determined to instil.

“I look forward to working with all parties to finalise and implement these changes as quickly as possible.”

The interim board will be responsible for developing a process by which a NHO is appointed, in line with Government expectations as set out in their response to the consultation carried out last year.

It will engage with the Ombudsman Association during this process to ensure that the proposals meet their best practice criteria of Independence, Fairness, Effectiveness, Openness & Transparency, and Accountability.

The interim board will also be expected to develop a reporting system that will measure the performance of the industry against the new code.

It is anticipated that under the main board will sit consumer, warranty and builder committees and a code board with responsibility for reviewing and updating the code, at the direction of the main board.

All the new arrangements will be paid for by the industry and once established, the NHO will be free to consumers, with access being through a new portal.

The new code, committed to ensuring the fair treatment of customers, aims to plug the gaps identified in a report by WPI Economics, who were commissioned by HBF in 2017 to undertake a review of the whole new homes redress process.

It will cover all aspects of the construction, inspection and sales process and place requirements on all parties involved.

The code will include;

• A requirement for builders to provide more detailed information to customers during the sales process.

• A tightened up final sign off process to ensure the home is ‘complete’ before mortgage money is released

• A responsibility for builders to deal with any snagging issues within a set time in years 1 and 2 of occupation

The Interim Board is the first step in the creation of the independent New Homes Quality Board.

It is comprised of representatives from across the sector and is made up as follows:
• Jackie Bennett- UK Finance
• Joanne Casey – Mactaggart and Mickel (medium sized builder)
• Gillian Cooper – Citizens Advice
• Douglas Cochrane – Independent
• Barry Cummins – Homes England
• Jennie Daly – Taylor Wimpey (large PLC builder)
• Natalie Elphicke – MP (independent chair)
• Katy Jordan- Storey Homes (small builder)
• Paul Smee – Conveyancers Association
• Nicholas Boys-Smith – Create Streets
• Steve Wood – NHBC (UK’s largest new homes warranty provider)


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