New Homes Ombudsman should be mandatory for housebuilders

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The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment has set out proposals for a New Homes Ombudsman to help provide better redress for dissatisfied home buyers

In its report, published on 26 June, the All-Party Parliamentary Group calls on the government to make it mandatory for all housebuilders to belong to an independent ombudsman scheme.

The report, Better redress for homebuyers, says that a New Homes Ombudsman should be independent, free to consumers and provide a quick resolution to disputes.  The report also recommends that government, warranty providers, housebuilders and consumer group’s work together to draw up a code of practice which would be used by the New Homes Ombudsman to adjudicate on disputes.

This latest Inquiry revealed the confusing landscape consumers face when they try to get redress for building defects, with a plethora of warranties, housebuilding codes and complaints procedures, none of which put the consumer first.

Richard Best Vice Chair of the APPG for Excellence in the Built Environment said: “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.

“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.”

To reduce consumer confusion and help ensure consumer complaints are dealt with efficiently, the report is recommending that there is a single portal – or entry point – for ombudsman services spanning the entire residential sector, which would cover the conduct of estate agents through to social housing.

The APPG proposes that all disputes taken to the New Homes Ombudsman should be noted in an annual report. Funding for the scheme would be paid for by a levy on housebuilders, with larger companies paying proportionately more.

Graham Watts OBE, Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Council, said: “We are delighted to give our backing to this report. Consumers buying new homes should be entitled to expect the same levels of aftercare and redress they would receive when purchasing any other new product. A New Homes Ombudsman will ensure this service is available to them.”

Gwyn Roberts, Homes & Communities Lead at HQM, added: “Consumers need more protection, and a clear place for them to ultimately take their complaints. The APPG recommendation is a big step forward. However, the housebuilding sector needs to do more to ensure that complaints don’t happen in the first place and ensure that consumers are happy with their homes as soon as they move in.”

The recommendations have been presented to the MHCLG to form part of its consultation on proposals for a single housing ombudsman to cover the housing sector.

You can access the full report here.

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