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New Homes Quality Board publishes new Code for housebuilders

New build homebuyers may feel let down with the New Homes Quality Board's draft new Code of Practice for housebuilders. We take a look at what is being proposed and encourage homeowners to respond to the four-week public consultation.

5 minute read

New Homes Quality Board has published its draft new Code of Practice

New build homeowners may be disappointed with the New Homes Quality Board‘s  proposals for a New Homes Quality Code. It claims 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’.

As well as overseeing the introduction of the new code, the New Homes Quality Board will also appoint a New Homes Ombudsman, being legislated by government to provide independent redress for customers not satisfied with their builder or new home.

At HomeOwners Alliance we have spent years campaigning for better protection for buyers who purchase new-build homes. We welcome the measures proposed in the code. However, we feel it falls far short of what’s really needed to protect home-buyers.  We also have concerns over the independence of the  New Homes Quality Board and their role to improve the quality of our new build homes. 

What’s being proposed in the new code of practice? 

Some of the key proposals in the new code are: 

  • Customers will be allowed to have a professional carry out a pre-completion inspection of their home on their behalf. This is new and we welcome it.
  • Builders are required to have an effective after care service in place to deal with  ‘snagging’ problems as well as a robust complaints process that responds to customers concerns in a timely manner and keeping them informed at set times throughout. We welcome the introduction of a  timeframe for snags, issues or problems to be resolved. The Code says ‘it is expected that in most situations a developer should be able to resolve an after-sales issue or problem within 30 calendar days, other than where there is a substantial reason for delay. Where there is substantial reason for delay, the customer will receive monthly updates. 
  • Customers can raise a case to the New Homes Ombudsman Service if they are not satisfied with how their complaint they have made has been dealt with.  This is new but we are concerned the Ombudsman may be selective in which complaints are looked at. 

What else is in there?

Some of the other proposals include:

  • Customers must have a choice about their own legal and other advisers to guide them through the buying process. This is very much welcomed by us and is part of our Better New Build campaign
  • The new code also 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. This has our full support, but the pack as it stands is a watered-down version of what was recommended. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment (APPG)’s  More homes, fewer complaints recommends including information on the  design and plan specifications as well as full details about the warranty and building control inspections. For this to make a real difference, these recommendations should have been acted on.

‘Good, but not good enough’

Paula Higgins, Chief Executive of the HomeOwners Alliance says, ‘We have been waiting for these changes since 2016 and the code is a disappointment. It simply doesn’t go far enough. 

‘It may look good on paper. But we fear that the scope of the New Homes Ombudsman is going to be very limited. We feel this is a result of the Ombudsman being appointed by the industry-led New Homes Quality Board. We’ve already raised concerns about its independence. We also wrote to the Government about our concerns but haven’t yet received a response.

‘Back in July 2016 , the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment published the excellent More Homes, Fewer Complaints. This was followed up in June 2018 with a report on how a New Homes Ombudsman could help drive up standards in housebuilding and improve consumer rights. And it stated that there should be more onus on housebuilders to “aspire to deliver zero-defect houses”. 

‘Sadly, the code falls short – it’s not ambitious enough. Whilst we appreciate this code is at the start of a 4-week public consultation, we predict that there will be little difference between what has been published now and what will be adopted. We urge the New Homes Quality Board to prove us wrong.’

What we want to see:

We will continue our campaign to fight to get homebuyers a fair deal. Here is what we want to see in the code: 

  • Mandatory snagging retention: Homeowners should retain at least 2.5% of the cost of the house which would only be paid after 6 months. This is at the end of the defects period. If any snagging issues aren’t put right, or if the homeowner wants to fix the problem themselves, then their costs should be deducted from the 2.5%. This would create a strong incentive for builders to put problems right. Read more about our proposal here
  • Standardised and fair contracts: Contracts must include the full plan and specification as standard, rather than hiding them in an office. The contract must include standardised terms and have more detailed specification. This gives buyers the information they need if they believe their home doesn’t meet the standards agreed. 
  • There needs to be a way to smooth the process from the cliff edge of 2 years after purchase. Currently, in years 3-10, consumers would go to their warranty provider to deal with structural issues and potentially have to restart the process again. 

Already proving unpopular

Some critics have already taken to social media to criticise the code. One wrote, ‘This is NOT a “New Homes Quality Code”. It is a revamped Consumer Code for Home Builders which now includes snagging works and the right for buyers to have their homes inspected before completion’. While others raised questions about its independence. One wrote, ‘Definitely not an independent body acting on behalf of consumers.

Have your say

So what do you think of the proposed code? Does it go far enough? Or have you encountered problems that would still have occurred or been unresolved under this new code? The Consultation will run until the closing date of 7 July 2021. So you still have time to have your say about the code

Also, please comment below to let us know what you would like to see in the new Code. This will help inform our response. 

Leave a comment (7)* Required

  1. Shirley WintersShirley Winters

    I would like the companies to have work inspected as the properties are built and things put right before the builders proceed further.
    As time goes on problems , bad workmanship and shoddy materials are often discovered. It’s then too late to get the builders or contractors
    back and proves costly for the buyer.
    There needs to be regulation for building of new homes and repair done on established properties

  2. JingJing

    “information on the design and plan specifications as well as full details about the warranty and building control inspections.”
    This is very critical for new owners and future buyers and improvement. Why?

    • PaulaPaula

      Hi Jing,
      Good question. There have been cases where people who have bought off-plan, with a promise of a balcony or a certain size room, and find themselves disappointed on completion when the developer doesn’t deliver on their marketing plan promises. They then do not have a case against the developer as they have no proof because they weren’t given the plans in the first place. I can give you 2 examples, one where the garage was too small to be able to open the doors to exit the car. In another case the buyer was very disappointed with the low height of her ceilings in a penthouse flat. However, as there are no regulations stipulating the height of a building, and she didn’t have her plans, she had no recourse available to her.

  3. Hazel Kershaw-SolomonHazel Kershaw-Solomon

    I support the campaign and proposals for what you would like to see. Retaining money for the home would be a great incentive for the builder.
    Before paying my deposit on my Barratt new home the developers solicitor bullied my solicitor to get it paid. Money talks!
    Service charges are a worry.
    I dont like this trend for private roads – a guise to save the Council money.

  4. Geoff AdamsGeoff Adams

    Ombudsman must be independent.

    Snagging retention must be mandatory.

    Contracts must be clear are fair.

  5. Ben WilsonBen Wilson

    Fleacehold scandal – would be nice to have the ability to complain about a management company hiking up service charges. I am a blind freeholder who has to pay service charges for a car park I’m never going to use

  6. ClaireClaire

    Better sound proofing and design – they could have asked for example if I’d like magnolia or white walls before I moved in and had to wait a year before I could paint. I was also hit with endless rules about how I was allowed (or more correctly: NOT allowed) to use my space!! (Not listed in my lease but I was sent warning letters after a contractor visited eg not allowed to put my washing on my balcony, not allowed to use my hallway cupboard to store my belongings even though it was big enough and I had no other storage space because my boiler resided there; not allowed to have a cupboard in my hallway even though it meant nothing extraneous spilled out into the space because it was all neatly arranged and out of sight; not allowed to fix anything to my hallway wall because it adjoined my neighbours and was therefore a firewall?! And yet the sound proofing is terrible and snagging was not complete. Not allowed to hang curtains for a year, but no information about the structure of the window recess so that I could make an informed decision about how to hang/drill/suspend curtains in future. But lots of patronising information about local shops (which is ever changing and as a local, I already knew about). I could go on! Oh and unregulated service charges!! And the lease came so late. I only got it a week before I got my keys. Being threatened with eviction when I asked if I could have a cat. Then finding out the the ground floor tenant was allowed to have a dog which barked a lot. Otherwise I really like my flat! 🙂

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