A cross-party committee of MPs and construction experts suggest that the ombudsman could mediate in disputes between homebuyers and housebuilders. The new office would be funded by a levy on house-builders.
This is one of 10 recommendations setting out measures to improve the quality of workmanship in new homes and provide consumers with easier and cheaper forms of redress, to get problems fixed.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment (APPGEBE), has today published a report called More homes, fewer complaints. The report is the result of an open inquiry into the quality and workmanship of new housing for sale in England.
House-builders come into criticism for failing to put customer needs before profit. The report says that builders should be “upping their game and putting consumers at the heart of the business model”.
Chairman of the group, Oliver Colvile MP, said: “The government is intent on seeing the construction of one million new homes within the course of this parliament. However, our view is that increasing the quantity of new homes must not be achieved at the expense of their quality. It is clear to us that there is a quality gap between customer demands and industry delivery. Closing this gap will only come about, we believe, if house-builders make a concerted effort to create a more consumer-focused culture. From the evidence we heard, consumers want to see an improved quality of build, homes that are fit for purpose and an easy to understand warranty. When something is wrong, consumers want an affordable and accessible means of putting it right. To this end we have set out a series of measures to redress the imbalance between buyers and sellers.”
– Department for Communities & Local Government should initiate steps to set up a New Homes Ombudsman. The role would include mediating disputes between consumers and their builders or warranty providers to offer a quick resolution procedure paid for by a housebuilders’ levy.
– Housebuilding sales contracts should be standardised. This would remove much of the uncertainty that presently arises from the bespoke nature of each builder’s sales contract, which can deter so many from pursuing claims
– Buyers should have the right to inspect properties before completion. Such a provision would discourage builders from serving notices to complete prematurely, or concealing major defects until after they have received the full purchase price, and would also encourage better quality control and site management pre-completion
– Builders should be required to provide buyers with a comprehensive information pack – the aim being to improve transparency of the design, building and inspection process. The pack should contain information including, designs and plans, specifications and details about both warranty and building control inspections, when carried out and by whom.
– DCLG should commission a review of warranties. At present warranty providers offer varying levels of cover and consumer protection.
– A minimum standard should be set for compliance inspections. The committee said that it was “concerned that competition in building control might be fuelling a race to the bottom”. It is therefore recommending there should be a defined minimum number of inspections that local authority building control and approved inspectors in the private sector should not fall below.