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New Homes Ombudsman

I have been campaigning for an independent New Homes Ombudsman to be set up by government since May 2014. I attended the APPG Inquiry second session on  23rd November 2015 and suggested that the government should set up a New Homes Ombudsman.

The APPG Inquiry Report, published on 13th July 2016, concluded:

“Housebuilder’s own quality control systems are not fit for purpose”

“there needs to be an industry aspiration to achieve a zero-defects culture”

“good practice should be seen as building a new home that is defect-free”


APPG Report more-homes.-fewer-complaints.pdfIt clearly stated the number 1 "key recommendation" - the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) setting up a New Homes Ombudsman:

“The role would include mediating disputes between consumers and their builders or warranty providers to offer a quick resolution procedure paid for by a housebuilders’ levy.

We see this is as the key recommendation to provide more effective consumer redress, if things go wrong, and a good way of applying pressure on housebuilders and warranty providers to deliver a better quality service.

Our view is that the new service should be funded by a levy on the sector, but it would need to be completely independent and replace the dispute resolution service offered as part of the Consumer Code for Home Builders. Our recommendation picks up on one made by the Office of Fair Trading, in its 2008 market study into the house building industry, which suggested that, if the industry failed to make satisfactory progress, it would recommend further intervention in the form of a statutory redress mechanism for new homebuyers funded by a levy on the industry.”

So it is somewhat disappointing that, 18 months after the report made the recommendation that an independent, government-appointed New Homes Ombudsman be set up to give buyers an independent form of redress, there has been so little progress. It is to be hoped that following this latest Inquiry, an independent New Homes Ombudsman will be set up by government without recourse to further delay, consultation, consideration, or review.

So is government finally listening?
There has been another APPG EBE Inquiry this time the Call for Evidence "looking at the potential and detail for a New Homes Ombudsman" the deadline for submission was 12 January 2018.
My submission can be found here.
Unfortunately, (and surprisingly) I was not invited to give oral evidence to the APPG committee for this inquiry and minutes from the sessions have not been made public!

appgebe-report-better-redress-for-homebuyers-26-june-2018.pdfThe Inquiry report titled 'Better Redress for Homebuyers' was published on 26 June 2018. "Buying a defective new home can take a massive toll on people’s wellbeing as they wrestle with an almost Kafkaesque system seemingly designed to be unhelpful. We cannot allow this to continue. Consumers desperately need greater leverage to drive a change in this culture in order to ensure that housebuilders put them at the heart of what they do."

Surely the time for action is now!

You can read my observations and opinion of the inquiry recommendations here:

MPs back plan for New Homes Ombudsman From the Inquiry report, it would appear that many within the industry are already looking to safeguard their interests and restrict the effectiveness of a New Homes Ombudsman if government are foolish enough to permit it. Of particular concern is the proposal for an "industry-wide code of practice, with government, warranty providers, housebuilders and consumer groups working together, in consultation, to draw up a code that would be used by the new homes ombudsman (NHO) to adjudicate on disputes."

Many in Government now publicly back the need for a new homes ombudsman, including former Secretary of state Sajid Javid and former housing minister Alok Sharma.

On 18 February 2018 the government announced a public Consultation "Strengthening consumer redress in housing" Despite this closing on 16 April 2018, it took the government 283 days to publish the feedback and its response.

During a debate in the House of Commons on 13 December 2017, the then chair of the APPG EBE Jo Churchill said:

"I applaud the Department for Communities and Local Government for getting the Home Builders Federation to look into the voluntary ombudsman scheme, but perhaps the time for any such voluntary scheme has passed."  ……Perhaps?

"…the repointing of joints on walls where purposeful demolition and reconstruction should have happened"……. No doubt in response to the growing incidence of weak-mix mortar.

"We must have not a nice, cosy, industry-led ombudsman, but an ombudsman process that has real teeth and the capacity to make a material difference" says Tony Lloyd MP for Rochdale

"Too many new homebuyers are suffering, many are physically drained as a result of engagement with errant housebuilders when trying to get their new homes brought up to warranty standards and statutory regulations. For some buyers the mental anguish has become almost unbearable."

Rob Wilson ex MP Reading East

Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Sajid Javid alluded to in his speech at the NHBC on 29 November 2017:  

"too many new-build homes are simply not good enough. You [HBF] can point to customer satisfaction levels of between 80 and 90%, something I’m often told about but [of new homebuyers] finding faults that take months and sometimes even years to remedy. It’s not just disappointing - it’s devastating. But just think about those 217,000 new homes built last year. Even if 80% of them have no issues, that still leaves well over 40,000 families living in accommodation that they don’t think is good enough."

In another announcement by the then housing and communities Secretary Sajid Javid on 29 November 2017, announcing "bold options" that Government "will look at to improve consumer redress across the housing sector"

Setting up an independent New Homes Ombudsman should be its priority.

Worryingly, at the time, it was apparent that the Government’s intended to roll all existing ombudsman (Housing Ombudsman, the Property Ombudsman and Ombudsman Services’ Property, and the Property Redress scheme) into one, all-encompassing, 'one-size-fits-all' "Housing Ombudsman" rather than a simplified New Homes Ombudsman, purely for consumers that buy new homes. I successfully campaigned against this, as I firmly believe a separate, stand-alone, fit-for-purpose, independent New Homes Ombudsman is the only way that this industry will be forced to look inwards at what it does and make both the quality of new homes and customers, their number one priority.  

New Homes Ombudsman:   FREE  –  FAIR  –  FOR EVERYTHING

Free – At no cost to new homebuyers making a complaint following the housebuilder or warranty provider issuing a final deadlock letter.

Fair – A New Homes Ombudsman would (and must) be entirely independent of the housebuilding industry – something that clearly the warranty providers and the Consumer Code for Home Builders are most definitely not! Fully transparent, delivered by the Public sector, appointed and audited by Government.

For everything – Everything and anything that can and does arise when buying and living in a new home. Dealing with buyers’ complaints including misleading and incomplete marketing information and underhand selling practices, unfair contracts, poor build quality, defects, non-compliance with Building Regulations and/or warranty standards, inadequate or indifferent aftersales service, conflicts of interest, tenure and boundary issues, contractual disputes - with the New Homes Ombudsman being able to order housebuilders and/or new home warranty providers to pay buyers justifiable and meaningful compensation awards and buy back homes with the most serious defects.

The New Homes Ombudsman must be fully-independent and government-appointed, NOT one of many "Ombudsman" in the private sector such as Ombudsman-services.org who act as little more than an outsourced dispute resolution service to various sectors. Using Cost Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) is not going to work either!


Government announces Statutory New Homes Ombudsman to be created

Watch it  on YouTubeOn Monday 1st October 2018, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced the creation of a statutory new homes ombudsman to ”champion the interests of new homebuyers and hold housebuilders to account”

That was a good day. At last, after four years campaigning, the government has announced an undertaking to set up a fully independent, stand-alone, statutory new homes ombudsman. I take a great amount of personal satisfaction and pride having played a leading  role in getting it this far, but there is still a long way to go.

The government indicated in its response to its Redress in Housing consultation finally published on 24 January 2019, 283 days after the consultation closed, that "legislation will be brought forward" supposedly being "brought forward at the earliest possible opportunity to require all new developers to belong to the Ombudsman" but there is much ambiguity in the government response.

So the campaign continues -  to ensure the statutory new homes ombudsman is actually created and operational ”at the earliest opportunity” (whatever that is!) without further delay via further consultations or meetings with ”stakeholders”  

Government must act and do so quickly. It must ensure the housebuilding industry, building defective new homes up and down the country and causing untold misery for those that live in them, is not given any opportunity to water down the potential effectiveness of the statutory new homes ombudsman, or be given any opportunity to set up an industry-led voluntary ombudsman. We need to make sure these bold proposals become bold actions.

You can be sure I will be watching, commenting and will miss nothing. After five years campaigning, the statutory new homes ombudsman is now too close to allow the industry to manipulate and interfere, or an ineffective government to delay it.

Government launched yet another consultation on 27th June 2019

"Redress for purchasers of new build homes and the New Homes Ombudsman"  which ran until 22 August 2019.
You can find my submission here. It could be argued the government is seeking to deliberately delay legislation for the statutory new homes ombudsman with this unnecessary consultation. The MHCLG has been giving
advice to the zombie Consumer Code for Homes Builders (CCHB), which the new homes ombudsman will replace. The CCHB said in their newsletter:  ”following advice from [Robert Jenrick’s] MHCLG”, they are ”working on a number of initiatives” no doubt in a vain belated effort to appear a more consumer friendly adjudicator, with an illusion of independence. Government must not allow the corrupt industry to interfere in the creation of the statutory new homes ombudsman

New Home Expert is watching!