New homes ombudsman and code of practice take a step closer

The formation of the independent New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) has brought the appointment of a New Homes Ombudsman and a new code of practice a step closer.

But what will this new regime for championing the quality of new homes mean for builders and developers? This article covers some of your main questions.

What are the current code of practice arrangements?

Currently, quality construction in new homes is supported through the Consumer Code for Homebuilders and other codes of practice. The Consumer Code is an industry-led scheme giving protection and rights to purchasers of new homes, ensuring they are treated fairly and are fully informed throughout the buying process and beyond.

Builders and developers registered with LABC Warranty and other supporting warranty providers are required to agree to the Consumer Code.

How will The New homes Ombudsman work?

The new arrangements will introduce a single New Homes Code and a New Homes Ombudsman who will have statutory powers, which may include issuing fines or de-registering developers from the Code.

All builders and developers of new homes will be required to sign up to the New Homes Code.

Homebuyers will have the right to complain to the Ombudsman if, having followed a complaints procedure with their builder or developer, they believe they still have cause for redress in accordance with the Code.

The Code will put greater requirements on developers with regards to build quality and customer service, particularly with regards to post occupation in the first two years.

Why is this happening now?

The move follows recommendations made by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment report to improve consumer redress and introduce a new homes ombudsman service.

An interim NHQB was established last year, made up of representatives from consumer and developer groups, developers, some warranty providers, the lending industry, Homes England and independent members to tackle these issues.

This announcement ratifies the group and provides the green light for next steps to happen.

What will the next steps be?

The intention is to have the New Homes Ombudsman in place later this year. There will be a transition period following this during which developers will need to sign up to the new arrangements. This will mean being subject to the requirements of the New Homes Code and the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman.

Once a developer has registered with the NHQB and signed up to the new arrangements, all new home buyers that have reserved homes from that date will be covered by the Code and the option to refer a complaint to the Ombudsman will be available to them.

The Ombudsman will not cover cases retrospectively and will only cover homes reserved from the date a developer registers with the NHQB and signs up to the new arrangements.

How will the transition from the Consumer Code for Home Builders to the New Homes Ombudsman work?

Details of how current requirements under the Consumer Code for Home Builders will change to the New Homes Ombudsman are yet to be finalised. However, there will likely be a period of transition where both sets of rules could apply.

Who will fund the new arrangements?

Details are yet to be agreed, but it’s expected that all of the new arrangements will be paid for by the house building industry. This will likely include an annual registration fee and a levy based on volumes, with an additional fee for certain referrals to the Ombudsman. Access to the New Homes Ombudsman will be free to consumers.

To learn more visit the NHQB website.

 

Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. However, for the most up to date LABC Warranty Technical Guidance please refer to your risk management surveyor and the latest version of the LABC Warranty technical manual.

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