The first step towards the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman (NHO) scheme has been announced with the appointment of an interim New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) chaired by Natalie Elphicke MP.
As a new independent body, the NHQB will have responsibility for the quality of new build homes and consumer redress. It will be guided by the principles of independence, transparency and integrity, and will comprise a mix of representatives of consumer bodies, home builders, warranty providers, lenders and independents such that it will not be dominated by any one group.
The interim board has ‘met’ for the first time and will now:
- oversee the composition and appointment of a permanent board;
- complete, consult on and adopt a new comprehensive and robust industry code of practice that will place more stringent requirements on all parties involved in the construction, inspection, sale and aftercare of new homes;
- agree a process to appoint a New Homes Ombudsman (NHO) service to adjudicate against the new code.
Nicola Barclay, Chief Executive of Homes for Scotland, said: “While housing is a matter that is devolved to the Scottish Government, consumer protection remains a reserved matter and so comes under the responsibility of Westminster, making a UK-wide solution crucially important. Working closely with colleagues in the Home Builders Federation in England, we are delighted to see this progression which reinforces our determination to ensure a high-quality home for each and every purchaser. We are also pleased that the stringent requirements will see consumers receive the same level of clarity and consistency wherever they live.”
The ambition is that a permanent chair and board will be in place by Autumn with a view to the new code and ombudsman service being in place by the start of 2021. There will then be a transition period for builders to sign up to the new arrangements. It is anticipated Government will ultimately legislate to improve consumer redress as soon as possible and these new proposals aim to complement such reform.
Natalie Elphicke said: “This is a welcome move, and a much needed step in the right direction. I am committed to ensuring that the new arrangements will deliver a step change in the quality of new homes and customer experience. They will be based in the principles of independence, transparency and integrity, values I know Government and the industry are determined to instil. I look forward to working with all parties to finalise and implement these changes as quickly as possible.”
All the new arrangements will be paid for by the industry and once established, the NHO will be free to consumers, with access being through a new portal.