Draft housebuilders’ code of practice published

The New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) has published a new code of practice for housebuilders.

The draft publication, which is being put out for a four-week consultation, follows heavy criticism of the industry in recent years and seeks to address gaps in consumer protection.

The new code, which has been under development for four years, introduces additional requirements for housebuilders, in particular requiring them to have an after-care service plan in place to deal with snagging problems customers have with their new homes, as well as putting in place a “robust” complaints procedure.

If customers aren’t happy with the way their complaint has been dealt with, they will be able to refer themselves to the New Homes Ombudsman Service.

The new code also:

  • Protects vulnerable customers, prohibits high-pressure selling; requires any deposits the customer pays to their builder to be protected
  • Requires the builder to provide all relevant information about the home during the sales process – including its tenure and any future management or service charges
  • Sets out requirements for a fair reservation agreement, including a ‘cooling off’ period; and sales contract requirements
  • Allows customer to have a professional carry out a pre-completion inspection of their home on their behalf
  • Specifies that a home must be ‘complete’, preventing builders paying customers to move into a new home early.

The NHQB will oversee the introduction of the new code, as well as the appointment of the New Homes Ombudsman Service.

A final code is expected to be agreed this summer, following the consultation.

An open public procurement process for the New Homes Ombudsman service was launched late last month by the NHQB, with the aim of having it up and running by the end of this year.

Natalie Elphicke, independent chairman of the NHQB said: “The launch of the consultation on the New Homes Quality Code is a major milestone in our work to introduce a new and comprehensive framework of protections for home buyers. I believe that the New Homes Quality Code fills the gaps in existing protections and will drive up build quality standards and consumer protections. It requires builders to treat their customers fairly, respond quickly to any issues they have, or be subject to referral to the independent New Homes Ombudsman we will put in place. I would encourage as many people as possible to complete the consultation and let us have any suggestions they have for how we can improve the draft code.”

Minister for rough sleeping and housing, Eddie Hughes, said: “I am delighted to see the publication of the draft New Homes Quality Code for consultation which is an important achievement for the house building industry. As we emerge from the pandemic, it is essential we build back better, improving standards of new housing for current home buyers and future generations. All homeowners should have the confidence that they will be well protected and any issues they encounter will be independently dealt with, which is why the launch of the consultation represents a great step forward for the industry and the home-owning public. We will continue to work with the NHQB to complement the government’s plan for legislation on the new homes ombudsman, to resolve disputes and to hold shoddy developers to account.”

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