The New Homes Quality Code, four years in development, aims to enhance protections for customers buying new-build houses in England.
It sets out measure to plug the gaps left by the new-build warranty schemes.
Among sharp practice that the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) is looking to outlaw is the sale of unfinished homes. Only four years ago Bovis Homes was found to be paying inducements to customers to move into unfinished homes so that the publicly listed developer could hit its sales targets.
The NHQB is the independent body created by government to oversee a new framework that hopes to drive up quality and service standards in the house building industry. It will oversee the introduction of the new code and appoint a New Homes Ombudsman Service to provide independent redress for customers not satisfied with their builder or new home.
The New Homes Quality Code introduces a range of additional requirements for builders to fill the gaps in current protections and ensure that every aspect of a new home purchase, from when a customer walks into a sales office, through to two years after occupation of the home is covered.
In particular, it requires builders to have an effective after-care service in place to deal with any issues or snagging problems that customers have with their new home. If a customer is not satisfied with how a complaint has been dealt with, they can refer themselves to the New Homes Ombudsman Service.
The new code also:
- Prohibits high pressure selling; requires any deposits the customer pays to their builder to be protected
- Requires the builder to provide all relevant information about the home during the sales process – including its tenure and any future management or service charges
- Sets out requirements for a fair reservation agreement, including a ‘cooling off’ period; and sales contract requirements
- Allows customer to have their own professional carry out a pre-completion inspection of their home on their behalf.
NHQB chair Natalie Elphicke said: “The launch of the consultation on the New Homes Quality Code is a major milestone in our work to introduce a new and comprehensive framework of protections for home buyers. I believe that the New Homes Quality Code fills the gaps in existing protections and will drive up build quality standards and consumer protections. It requires builders to treat their customers fairly, respond quickly to any issues they have, or be subject to referral to the independent New Homes Ombudsman we will put in place. I would encourage as many people as possible to complete the consultation and let us have any suggestions they have for how we can improve the draft code.”
The consultation runs for four weeks from today. The NHQB aims to have the final code agreed by summer, after which engagement with industry will be ramped up to ensure house builders are able to undertake staff training and make the necessary changes withing their businesses as soon as possible. The NHQB will also be setting up a number of specialist committees to advise the board. These will include consumer, technical and political committees.
The NHQB has also held discussions with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales with a view to the new arrangements ultimately operating on a UK wide basis.
To read the consultaion report, see www.nhqb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/The-Code.pdf
To respond to the consultation process, see www.nhqb.org.uk/new-homes-quality-code-consultation