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New Homes Ombudsman promises closer scrutiny of UK housebuilding sector

03/06/2020

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United Kingdom

The launch of an interim New Homes Quality Board takes the UK a step closer to establishing a permanent adjudicator to oversee standards in new-build housing – Fieldfisher property and construction specialists Susan Simpson, Helen Andrews and Abbie Griffiths consider the implications of this new body.

  Steps towards creating a New Homes Ombudsman scheme for the UK were announced last week, with the appointment of Natalie Elphicke MP as interim chair of the New Homes Quality Board.

This interim independent body, which has responsibility for overseeing the quality of new-build homes and consumer redress, is comprised of consumer bodies, warranty providers, lenders and independents.

The new arrangements are intended to give buyers of new-build properties absolute confidence in the sector, whose reputation has been tarnished in the past few years by negative media reports about substandard new-builds and the challenges consumers have faced in rectifying problems.

Measures will be aimed at improving the quality of new-build homes, delivering good customer service and strengthening consumer redress.

Code of practice

The New Homes Quality Board will implement the measures through the adoption of a comprehensive industry code of practice, which promises to place "stringent requirements on all parties involved in the construction, inspection, sale and aftercare of new homes".

For example, the code will require:
 
  • Builders to provide more information to customers throughout the sales process;
  • Homes to be "complete" before any mortgage monies are released; and
  • Snagging issues to be dealt with by builders within a set time in years 1 and 2 of occupation.
The New Homes Quality Board aims to appoint a permanent chair and board by autumn of this year, with a view to adopting the new code and the appointing a New Homes Ombudsman service to adjudicate against the code by the start of 2021.

Once the new Ombudsman is in place, there will be a transition period for builders to sign up and be expected to comply with the new measures.

The implementation of a new code will come as a huge challenge for builders, who will need to fully understand the code and adapt their standard procedures to comply with its requirements.

Pressure on builders will be exacerbated by the intention to give homebuyers more power to address any potential issues through the implementation of a fast and effective independent dispute resolution service, via the Ombudsman.

For further information on the code, or guidance on how it may affect your business, please get in touch with your usual Fieldfisher client partner or Susan Simpson or Helen Andrews.
 

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Areas of Expertise

Real Estate
Construction

Related Work Areas

Real Estate