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MPs call for housebuilders’ ombudsman

Wednesday 27 June 2018

A cross-party group of MPs have called for housebuilders to belong to a mandatory independent ombudsman scheme, following the wave of scandals over poor-quality homes and leaseholds.

In their report, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Excellence in the Built Environment set out their recommendations on how to help provide better redress for disgruntled and dissatisfied home buyers, and drive up standards in housebuilding.

The report, Better redress for homebuyers, proposes an industry-wide code of practice which sees Government, warranty providers, builders and consumer group’s work together to draw up a code of practice to be used by a New Homes Ombudsman to adjudicate on disputes.

Whilst the principle of the ombudsman scheme is that it should be independent and free to consumers, providing a quick resolution to disputes, what the APPG would like to see is housebuilders consistently building defect-free homes so that the number of complaints are reduced altogether. Last year, UK housebuilder Bovis Homes received complaints from hundreds of buyers over the quality of its homes and a number of other bigger developers (including Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon) ran into hot water after becoming embroiled in the leasehold scandal.

The report calls for greater consumer clarity, advocating a single portal for ombudsman services spanning the entire residential sector, covering the conduct of estate agents through to social housing, in order to reduce confusion in the market place. Within this single entity, there would be either a number of specialist ombudsmen or specialist divisions, with one of these covering new home disputes between housebuilders and consumers for the first two years.

To impose tougher sanctions, the APPG recommend belonging to the New Homes Ombudsman be a statutory requirement for any organisation building and selling new homes in order to be able to trade, and are advocating that the New Homes Ombudsman be able to make awards to consumers of up to £50,000 which would be made public.

Commenting on the report, vice chair of the APPG, Richard Best, 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 well-being 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.”

The parliamentary group said it had submitted its proposals to the government and will await their response.

Read the full report