Natalie Elphicke MP has been appointed interim chair of the independent board that will eventually appoint the New Homes Ombudsman.
The interim New Homes Quality Board will have responsibility for the quality of new build homes and consumer redress, and will:
- oversee the completion, consultation on and adoption of a new industry code of practice for construction, inspection, sale and aftercare of new homes;
- agree a process to appoint a New Homes Ombudsman service to adjudicate against the new code; and
- oversee appointment of a permanent board.
Elphicke was elected MP for Dover at the December 2019 general election, succeeding her husband Charlie. She was appointed as the independent ‘New Homes Quality Champion’ last summer.
The interim New Homes Quality Board will be expected to develop a reporting system that will measure the performance of the industry against the new code of practice.
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; and
- A responsibility for builders to deal with any snagging issues within a set time in years 1 and 2 of occupation.
The permanent chair and board is expected to be in place by the autumn, with the new code and ombudsman service being in place by the start of 2021. There will then be a transition period for housebuilders to sign up to the new arrangements. It is anticipated government will legislate to improve consumer redress.
The board is represented by consumer bodies, housebuilders, warranty providers, lenders and independents.
The interim New Homes Quality Board members:
- Jackie Bennett – UK Finance
- Joanne Casey – Mactaggart and Mickel
- Gillian Cooper – Citizens Advice
- Douglas Cochrane – Independent
- Barry Cummins – Homes England
- Jennie Daly – Taylor Wimpey
- Natalie Elphicke – MP (independent chair)
- Katy Jordan – Storey Homes
- Paul Smee – Conveyancers Association
- Nicholas Boys-Smith – Create Streets
- Steve Wood – NHBC
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 instill. I look forward to working with all parties to finalise and implement these changes as quickly as possible.”
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman at the Home Builders Federation, said: “This is the next step in what has been a long and strenuous journey involving a broad range of stakeholders. The move demonstrates the commitment of the industry to providing buyers with absolute confidence in their builder and the quality of their new home. The new body will help ensure that the steady improvement in the quality of new build homes we have seen in recent years continues. Customers will be reassured that in the instances where they do have issues with their new home, they will have recourse to a fast, effective independent dispute resolution service via an ombudsman. The new robust arrangements will provide a huge challenge for builders but the industry fully recognises the need to deliver, and we will.”
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 housebuilding industry has been working with stakeholders and government on a framework that will include the creation of an ombudsman service.
All the new arrangements will be paid for by the industry and once established, the ombudsman will be free to consumers, with access being through a new portal.