A new independent body that aims to champion quality new homes and better outcomes for buyers has launched.
The housebuilding industry-funded New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) will be chaired by Dover MP Natalie Elphicke.
Elphicke was appointed as the independent ‘new homes quality champion’ in the summer of 2019, which led to the establishment of an interim board in May of last year, before the NHQB was officially constituted in January.
She will oversee the consultation on and introduction of a new industry code of practice – the New Homes Code – that promises to place “considerably more responsibility” on developers to deliver quality homes.
Menawhile a New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS) aims to provide support for buyers in the event of a dispute.
The NHQB will have permanently appointed board members including representatives from consumer bodies, housebuilders, warranty providers, the finance sector and independents – with a constitution that ensures no one body is dominant.
It will be paid for by housebuilders via an annual registration fee and levy based on volumes, with an additional fee for certain referrals to the NHOS.
The New Homes Code will require developers to have effective complaints procedures in place, with specified timelines within which they have to address any issues that arise with a new home to the consumer’s satisfaction or be potentially subject to a referral to the NHOS. A consultation process on the Code is underway.
The NHQB is working closely with the Ombudsman Association, the independent body that validates ombudsman schemes, on the process to appoint a NHOS.
The Code and NHOS are expected to be established in the coming months.
It has taken four years to establish the creation of the NHQB, following the publication of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment (APPGEBE) report ‘More homes fewer complaints’ in 2016, which put setting up a NHOS as its number one recommendation, as did the same group’s subsequent 2018 report ‘Better redress for homebuyers’ under the chairmanship of Eddie Hughes.
“The new arrangements will lead to a step change in how new homes are built and sold.”
Natalie Elphicke said: “The new arrangements will lead to a step change in how new homes are built and sold and how customers are treated. The board is committed to driving new build quality and strengthening protections for buyers. A new home is the most important purchase most of us make and it is essential that buyers have confidence in both the product and the processes in place to support them. I would like to thank the industry for its support as we have developed our plans and I firmly believe that ultimately the new arrangements will lead to significant benefits for both consumers and developers.”
Minister for rough sleeping and housing Eddie Hughes said: “It’s crucial developers show more responsibility for the quality of their work while also acknowledging when things go wrong – this helps give vital confidence to buyers, especially at a time of general uncertainty.
“I welcome today’s launch of the New Homes Quality Board and its work to put a new Ombudsman in place and look forward to working closely with them to ensure the house building industry is delivering new homes of the highest possible quality.”
Caroline Gumble, chief executive of the CIOB, said: “We’ve previously welcomed announcements about the interim New Homes Quality Board and it’s good news that the Board is now set up and able to make progress. I want to reiterate that quality remains one of the biggest issues facing the construction industry and the new ombudsman will have a significant role as a mechanism for driving improvements in the quality of new homes. My hope is that the forthcoming consultation is opened soon and that the ombudsman function can be set up within the next few months to start offering greater certainty and confidence to those purchasing new homes.”
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation said: “Recent years have seen significant improvements made in build quality and customer service and we are determined to go further. Today’s announcement is the next step in a process HBF started some years ago involving a broad range of stakeholders. The proposed arrangements will present the industry with some challenges but will, I believe, ultimately prove of considerable benefit to builders and customers alike.”