A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, published on 26th June, calls on the government to make it compulsory for all house-builders to belong to an independent ombudsman scheme.
The report, Better redress for homebuyers, says that a New Homes Ombudsman should be independent and free to consumers, providing a quick resolution to disputes. The report also recommends that government, warranty providers, builders and consumer group’s work together to draw up a code of practice that would be used by the New Homes Ombudsman to adjudicate on disputes.
The report follows on from its 2016 report on the quality and workmanship of new housing in England. That report, More homes, fewer complaints, also called for a New Homes Ombudsman because of widespread frustration and disappointment from buyers of new homes, both in terms of the number of defects that new homes often had on handover, and also the problems they encountered in getting them fixed.
This latest inquiry once again revealed the confusing landscape consumers face when they try to get redress for building defects, with a plethora of warranties, building codes and complaints procedures, none of which put the consumer first.
“Buying a new home is stressful enough but buying a defective one, as we heard from submissions and witnesses, can take a massive toll on people’s wellbeing as they wrestle with an almost Kafkaesque system seemingly designed to be unhelpful,” said Lord Richard Best, vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment and a former director of the National Federation of Housing Associations.
“The purchaser of a new home in this country should be confident that they are buying a high-quality product, no matter where they are or who built it. Our proposals could help to make this a reality,” he said.
To reduce consumer confusion and help ensure consumer complaints are dealt with efficiently, the report recommends a single entry point for ombudsman services spanning the entire residential sector, which would cover the conduct of estate agents through to social housing. Within this overarching service, there would be either a number of specialist ombudsmen or specialist divisions, including one for new homes.
Funding for the scheme would be paid for by a levy on house-builders, with larger companies paying proportionately more.