New homes quality watchdog launched

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

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.” 

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  1. Firstly I must say that in this time I find it almost unbelievable that the Building Industry generally can not build to a good quality standard. I have reasonably recent been involved with a house built by one of the national four which is an absolute disgrace to the industry. And more so the builder does not care to take any responsibility despite evidence from his own subcontractors and suppliers presenting reports that state the building does not comply.
    Anyway I am not confident this new scheme will be very effective in practice. It’s being funded by the house builder – therefore self governing – equals little chance for the house owner. Will a illegal route be available to the house owner at cost the house owner can afford – this is not likely. Therefore I feel the Building Industry will remain as it is.

  2. As long as it is completely independent from all House builders including SME’s, it might do some good to remove these long overdue issues within the industry.

  3. I would very much like to be part of this, if you need any home builders quality professionals?

  4. Should have Clerk of Works on the board too

  5. As an independent member of the APPGEBE that recommended the establishment of a New Homes Ombudsman, I am delighted that Government has taken up this initiative, which should lead to a huge improvement in the quality of new homes.

  6. Just what the housing industry needs….another quango! Why couldn’t the NHBC have taken on this role, assuming that the role is actually necessary ?

  7. Oh dear what points was it I raised that you did not see fit to publish my comments, touch a nerve did I?

    “As an independent member of the APPGEBE that recommended the establishment of a New Homes Ombudsman, I am delighted that Government has taken up this initiative, which should lead to a huge improvement in the quality of new homes.”

    Yes I am sure you are, the world needs another quango headed up by someone with no apparent qualifications in the industry – now WHY was she appointed and by whom?

    Maybe start by using EXISTING legislation and beefing that up instead of yet another waste of time set up thatw illonly serve as a barrier to entry for new comers.

    Maybe also start using REALISTIC buld times and stop contracting out to the lowest bidder – and not rengng on payments when work is done!

    I could go on but hey, the truth hurts!

  8. Quality includes good design. Followed by good workmanship.

    It is of little use raising quality of building if the initial design is substandard in spatial and Elevational terms. Ie limited size of internal rooms ( I believe there was a standard at one time) and window openings and daylight within new properties.

    The number of new build houses with minute windows has increased over the last 10 years and seems to have been accepted. (don’t use the excuse of thermal efficiency). This is probably due to housing developers using Auto Cad geek technicians and not having an appreciation of good design.

  9. I think the larger developers need to be held to task over the quality of the houses built. That said everyone is responsible for their involvement. Trades know how things should be done and to what standards but usually its the client/developer pushing the trades to get things done quicker which can lead to mistakes and quality falling. This is also exasperated with trade skills shortage and site management skill shortages. Another organisation shouldn’t be needed if the basics are addressed.

  10. At long last but how long will it take to actually implement.
    The vast majority of current problems would never occur if there was the proper inspection process in place for every property as there was in the day when L. A. Building Control were responsible for all inspections.
    Current systems of inspections are often appalling. I have lived in properties and found so many faults that would have been picked up by proper inspections . I found later that my house was one of a number that were not inspected. Only one house here and there on the development having been subject to an inspection by the private sector company employed.

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