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Body will help strengthen protections for buyers of new-build homes

Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent
·3-min read

A body helping to drive up standards for new-build homes and strengthen protections for buyers has been launched.

Members of the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) include those representing consumer bodies, housebuilders, warranty providers and the finance sector.

Chaired by Natalie Elphicke MP, the board will oversee the introduction of a new industry code of practice in the months ahead, placing more responsibility on developers to deliver quality homes and better consumer outcomes.

A free-to-access New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS) will support buyers when there are disputes.

The ombudsman will not cover cases retrospectively. It will only cover homes reserved from the date a developer registers with the board and signs up to the new arrangements.

The new homes code of practice will place more demands on builders from the sales process through to two years from when buyers move into their new home.

It will require developers to have effective complaints procedures in place, with specified timelines to address any issues with a new home to the consumer’s satisfaction or they will be potentially subject to a referral to the NHOS.  A consultation process on the code is taking place.

The new arrangements should be operational later this year, with the ambition that they will apply across the UK.

In 2016, a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment highlighted a need to improve consumer redress and introduce a new homes ombudsman service.

Positive discussions have been held with the Welsh and Scottish Governments, those behind the board said.

Discussions were held in Westminster to ensure measures align with the draft Building Safety Bill to improve building and fire safety following the Grenfell Tower fire in London.

The UK Government has been criticised over its handling of the cladding crisis, with residents of buildings with flammable cladding saying they have been left trapped in “worthless” homes.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently insisted the Government is “getting on with the job” of helping leaseholders, adding in the House of Commons: “We’re making it very clear to the mortgage industry that they should be supporting people living in such accommodation.”

As the new board was launched, Ms Elphicke said: “The new arrangements will lead to a step change in how new homes are built and sold and how customers are treated.

“The board is committed to driving new-build quality and strengthening protections for buyers.

“A new home is the most important purchase most of us make and it is essential that buyers have confidence in both the product and the processes in place to support them.

“I would like to thank the industry for its support as we have developed our plans and I firmly believe that ultimately the new arrangements will lead to significant benefits for both consumers and developers.”

Those behind the board said its constitution will mean no one body among its members will be dominant.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation (HBF) said: “The industry is absolutely committed to putting measures in place to help deliver consistently high-quality new homes and effective redress for buyers.

“Recent years have seen significant improvements made in build quality and customer service and we are determined to go further.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I am delighted to support this new body which will champion good quality homes and give much needed peace of mind for homebuyers with a strong regulator to help them if things go wrong.”

Minister for rough sleeping and housing, Eddie Hughes, said: “It’s crucial developers show more responsibility for the quality of their work while also acknowledging when things go wrong – this helps give vital confidence to buyers, especially at a time of general uncertainty.

“I welcome today’s launch of the New Homes Quality Board and its work to put a new ombudsman in place and look forward to working closely with them to ensure the house building industry is delivering new homes of the highest possible quality.”