MPs call for new build Ombudsman service

Ryan Bembridge

July 13, 2016

building work

MPs are calling for the introduction of a ‘New Homes Ombudsman’ to manage disputes between homebuyers and housebuilders.

The cross party of MPs called The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment  made 10 recommendations on new build in the report More homes, fewer complaints which was launched on 13 July 2016.

With the rush to build homes the UK requires the committee warned that there may be a “race to the bottom” on building control, as the body also called for a minimum standard for compliance inspections.

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It recommended for buyers to be able to inspect properties before completion, for standardised housebuilding sales contracts, a review of warranties and for builders to provide buyers with a comprehensive information pack.

Oliver Colvile MP, chairman of the group, said: “The government is intent on seeing the construction of one million new homes within the course of this parliament.

“However, our view is that increasing the quantity of new homes must not be achieved at the expense of their quality.

“It is clear to us that there is a quality gap between customer demands and industry delivery. Closing this gap will only come about, we believe, if housebuilders make a concerted effort to create a more consumer-focused culture. From the evidence we heard, consumers want to see an improved quality of build, homes that are fit for purpose and an easy to understand warranty.

“When something is wrong, consumers want an affordable and accessible means of putting it right. To this end we have set out a series of measures to redress the imbalance between buyers and sellers.”

Paula Higgins, chief executive of property advice website HomeOwners Alliance, welcomed the report and strongly supported its recommendations.

She said: “It provides strong evidence that people purchasing new build homes need more rights and access to adequate redress when things go wrong.

“We are constantly approached by new build homeowners in need of help because they have issues with the quality of their new build home but feel ignored. There is a huge gap between what buyers want and expect and what the industry is offering.

“Giving buyers a mandatory right to inspect and carry out a full survey of the property prior to completion will give much-needed power back to the consumer.

“Sales contracts are weighted unfairly in favour of the housebuilder with clauses limiting liability for defects. Buyers are forced to sign these contracts with no power to negotiate. For example, developers can force the handover of the property when the buyer does not believe it is ready.

“If the buyers do spot problems once they move in, they have no financial leverage on the housebuilder to make them correct the defects.”

She added: “There is a serious lack of consumer protection for people buying new build homes which must be addressed urgently. The government must take a lead role to make sure house builders deliver a quality product and service – and not just focus on the numbers being built.”

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