The New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) has published its draft new Code of practice for house builders for a four-week public consultation. The New Homes Quality Code, aims to address the gaps in existing protections for new build customers for which the house building industry has been so heavily criticised in recent years.
The NHQB is the independent body created to oversee a new framework that will drive up quality and service standards in the house building industry. It will oversee the introduction of the new code and appoint a New Homes Ombudsman Service to provide independent redress for customers not satisfied with their builder or new home.
The New Homes Quality Code introduces a broad range of additional requirements for builders to fill the gaps in current protections and ensure that every aspect of a new home purchase, from when a customer walks into a sales office, through to two years after occupation of the home is covered.
In particular, it requires builders to have an effective after care service in place to deal with any issues or ‘snagging’ problems customers have with their new home; and a robust complaints process that responds to customers concerns in a timely manner and to their satisfaction, keeping them informed at set times throughout. If a customer is not satisfied with how any complaint they have made has been dealt with, they can refer themselves to the independent New Homes Ombudsman Service.
The new code also;
- Protects vulnerable customers, prohibits high pressure selling; requires any deposits the customer pays to their builder to be protected
- Requires the builder to provide all relevant information about the home during the sales process – including its tenure and any future management or service charges – that allows them to make an informed decision about their purchase
- Sets out requirements for a fair reservation agreement, including a ‘cooling off’ period; and sales contract requirements
- Allows customer to have a professional carry out a pre-completion inspection of their home on their behalf
- Specifies that a home must be ‘complete’, preventing builders paying customers to move into a new home early.
Speaking today, Natalie Elphicke, OBE, independent chairman of the NHQB said: “The launch of the consultation on the New Homes Quality Code is a major milestone in our work to introduce a new and comprehensive framework of protections for home buyers. I believe that the New Homes Quality Code fills the gaps in existing protections and will drive up build quality standards and consumer protections. It requires builders to treat their customers fairly, respond quickly to any issues they have, or be subject to referral to the independent New Homes Ombudsman we will put in place. I would encourage as many people as possible to complete the consultation and let us have any suggestions they have for how we can improve the draft code.”
Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Eddie Hughes MP said: “I am delighted to see the publication of the draft New Homes Quality Code for consultation which is an important achievement for the house building industry. As we emerge from the pandemic, it is essential we build back better, improving standards of new housing for current home buyers and future generations. All homeowners should have the confidence that they will be well protected and any issues they encounter will be independently dealt with, which is why the launch of the consultation represents a great step forward for the industry and the home-owning public. We will continue to work with the NHQB to complement the government’s plan for legislation on the new homes ombudsman, to resolve disputes and to hold shoddy developers to account”
The Code has been in development for some four years now and has had input from a broad range of stakeholders throughout. It takes into consideration other emerging policy including on leasehold and building safety, all of which the NHQB is committed to supporting.
The Consultation will run for four weeks from today and the NHQB is encouraging as many stakeholders, customers and interested parties as possible to respond. After the consultation closes, the NHQB will consider all representations made and refine the draft code accordingly.
The NHQB aims to have the final Code agreed by Summer, after which engagement with industry will be ramped up to ensure house builders are able to undertake staff training and make the necessary changes withing their businesses as speedily as possible. The NHQB will also be setting up a number of specialist committees to advise the board. These will include consumer, technical and political committees.
An open public procurement process for the New Homes Ombudsman service was launched late last month by the NHQB. The 30-day period for interested parties to apply will close at the end of the month, after which the NHQB will enter into a ‘preferred partner’ agreement with one party. The intention is to have a NHOS ‘open for business’ by Q4 of this year.
Once the new code is in place and the NHOS is operating there will be a transition period for builders to register with the NHQB and submit themselves to the new arrangements. All engagement with industry on the new proposals thus far have been positive.
The UK Government is supportive of the proposals and they are in line with what has been set out in the Building Safety Bill. The NHQB has also held positive discussions with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales with a view to the new arrangements ultimately operating on a UK wide basis.