Changes help strengthen the Consumer Code for Home Builders

Established in 2010 to help ensure new home buyers are treated fairly, the Consumer Code for Home Builders has undergone several changes recently, designed to improve support to buyers.

The Code is also working closely with Government on the potential introduction of a New Homes Ombudsman and is seeking to simplify and enhance the standards and protections offered to new home buyers.

As one of the Code’s founding members, we have summarised these changes and how they could affect you:

Home buyers no longer have to pay to bring complaints

Previously, home buyers paid a fee to bring a complaint through the Code’s Dispute Resolution Scheme. Even though the fee was refunded in most cases where a claim was upheld, the up-front cost still presented a potential barrier for buyers to report their concerns.

Builders or developers will still have to pay a fee if a complaint is raised against them through the Code’s resolution scheme. This is designed to encourage providing a good service and to resolve any potential issues quickly and effectively before they can escalate.

Customer helpline now a permanent feature

Following a successful pilot, the Code has launched a permanent helpline for home buyers, builders and developers selling new homes. The service is not designed to advise buyers on potential breaches of the Code nor individual cases, but it can explain how to raise a complaint. It can also advise builders and developers on how the process works.

The helpline is on 0345 608 9797 and available between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday. You can also email the help team at enquiries@consumercode.co.uk.

New Chief Executive announced

The Code has a new Chief Executive, Carol Brady MBE. Carol was previously the Chair of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and non-executive Chair of the Claims Management Regulation Unit for the Ministry of Justice. She was awarded an MBE in June 2016 in recognition of her services to consumers and better regulation.

Future direction - simplifying standards to help home buyers

The Code is working with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing for the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman scheme.

The intention is for the Code’s independent Board to commission an Ombudsman by open competition, which will replace the current Dispute Resolution Scheme. The Code is looking for best value, to ensure operational standards are maintained and ultimately give confidence to home buyers that a New Homes Ombudsman will be held to account.

At the same time, the Code is working with similar schemes to agree a unified code that can be applied across the home building sector and bring clarity to home buyers, builders and developers. A comprehensive independent consultation will take place once a draft is approved.

Finally, work is underway to try and agree a “best practice” warranty standard. While there is acknowledgement that this will not be easy and may be a lengthy process, the aim again is to help warranty beneficiaries – builders, developers and homeowners – better understand what is and isn’t covered.

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