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New Homes Ombudsman service moves step closer

·2-min read

The development of a new body which will provide redress for buyers of new-build homes that are not up to scratch has moved a step closer.

The announcement was made as it emerged that Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke is to step down from a second job as chairwoman of the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB), which was set up to oversee the quality of new-build houses.

The NHQB announced on Wednesday that the Dispute Service has been selected to be the New Homes Ombudsman, following a six-month tender process.

It means the Dispute Service, known for its work on Government-authorised tenancy deposit protection, is now the preferred partner to develop the independent New Homes Ombudsman service.

Second jobs held by some MPs have come under intense scrutiny in recent days.

Ms Elphicke, who took up her role before becoming an MP, will be standing down from her NHQB position when a permanent chair is appointed.

An interim board for the NHQB was established last year and a recruitment process is under way to recruit a permanent independent chair and chief executive, alongside additional independent non-executive board directors.

The ombudsman service will enforce a new housebuilding industry code of practice – the new homes quality code, which will place certain responsibilities on builders for the service they must provide. The code will be published next month following a consultation earlier this year.

Buyers who are unhappy with their new home, or frustrated with the performance of the developer in handling their complaint, will be able to ask the ombudsman to review their case.

The service will look at issues such as whether customers have been treated fairly by their builder and rule on whether there has been a breach of the new code.

Ms Elphicke said: “Consumers rightly expect new homes to be top quality – and to get great customer service too. The ombudsman will be an independent customer guardian, making sure buyers get proper redress if they’ve been sold a shoddy home or suffer from poor customer service.

“A new home is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make and so it is right that we put the strongest protections in place to protect consumers buying a new home.”

Steve Harriott, chief executive of the Dispute Service, said: “We are already working hard to get the New Homes Ombudsman service up and running.

“We have significant experience of starting new services from scratch so I am confident that we will be ready to launch the scheme in early 2022 and to provide new home buyers with the access to redress that they have been asking for.”

The ombudsman designate will be Alison MacDougall, group director of resolution at the Dispute Service, where she heads up a team of adjudicators dealing with disputes between landlords and tenants.

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