MPs call for a New Homes Ombudsman

Thursday 14 July 2016

A cross party group of MPs who sit on the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Excellence in the Built Environment has called for the creation of a new Homes Ombudsman to mediate disputes between homebuyers and housebuilders. The new body, which would be paid through a housebuilders’ levy, is needed the MPs say, to facilitate the construction of one million new homes by 2020.

The APPG for Excellence in the Built Environment released a report on 13 July 2016 entitled ‘More homes, fewer complaints – Report from the Commission of Inquiry into the quality and workmanship of new housing in England.’

The report includes ten 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 recommendations include:

• Housebuilding sales contracts should be standardised because 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. This 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 to help 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.

• Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) should commission a thorough 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 APPG is concerned that competition in building control might be fuelling a race to the bottom.

The Chair of the APPG is Oliver Colvile MP who also chairs the APPG for the Private Rented Sector. In his opening statement to the report Mr Colvile says, “Buying a house is probably the biggest investment that many of us will make. First-time buyers are purchasing a dream which they want to be of good quality. We need to build more homes, but I want quality homes for quality homeowners.”

Commenting on the recommendation for a new Homes Ombudsman to mediate disputes between homebuyers and housebuilders Mark Hayward, Managing Director of the NAEA said: “This is a good idea and we are pleased that MPs on the Excellence in the Built Environment APPG are engaging with this area of the housing market. There are existing redress schemes that apply to pre-owned homes and there could also be scope to replicate some of these features. We look forward to seeing whether the Government, with its new Ministers in post, take the recommendations on board.”   

Construction Industry Council acts as the secretariat for the APPG for Excellence in the Built Environment.  

Read the full report here