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Our 10 asks for the New Homes Quality Code

The New Homes Quality Board Code consultation process has come to an end. Here's the good and bad of what has been proposed.

4 minute read

New Homes Quality Code

The New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) published its consultation on the  New Homes Quality Code of Practice earlier this month. We published our initial reactions at the time, alongside a call for homeowners to respond, challenging the claim that the proposals would ‘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 part of our Better New Build campaign, we have backed calls for the creation of a new Homes Ombudsman and a review of the Consumer Code for Homebuilders. We are supportive of the housebuilding industry taking responsibility and are here to offer our our help.

As well as encouraging homeowners to respond to the consultation, we have also fed back our thoughts. We welcome the measures proposed in the NHQB’s Code of Practice, specifically the following:

  • Developers must make buyers aware that they should appoint independent legal and mortgage advice; that they cannot restrict choice; and they must disclose if they receive a commission
  • Buyers to have the right to have a pre-completion inspection before legal completion
  • All developers must have a robust after sales service and complaints process
  • All homes should meet a good quality standard, but the definition of quality needs to be properly defined and benchmarked for both developers and their customers
  • The introduction of a cooling off period after the Reservation Agreement is signed. However, this needs to be aligned with other consumer legislation of 14 days and not 10 days as stated in the Code.

However, we feel the Code falls far short of what’s really needed to fully protect home-buyers.  We would like to see the following additional measures to protect new home buyers:

  1. The Code must apply to ALL new build homes: Developers cannot treat those who are buying a new build to rent out; or as part of a shared ownership scheme; or are a self builder, differently from those who are buying a new home on the open market to live in.
  2. A Quality Standard needs to be developed and agreed. Building regulations only look at technical compliance and do not cover the finish of the work.
  3. The Code should inspire industry to achieve zero defects in new homes – a key recommendation made by MPs in their report on  the Better Redress for Homebuyers.
  4. The Code would benefit from a clear glossary that defines key terms (buyer, developer, contract deposit, defect, snag) as well as a section on what the code does not cover.
  5. Extend the length of time owners can make a claim to the New Homes Ombudsman if the issue has been raised before the 2 year deadline but is still not rectified, or where they are not covered by the 10 year warranty.
  6. Explain clearly to the homebuyer what is covered and not covered by the 10 year new build warranty and explain how not all new build warranties are the same.
  7. Allow buyers to hold back 2.5% of the property price for 6 months until faults are fixed. See our #HoldBackCash Snagging retention campaign for more information.
  8. Developers belonging to The Code should be required to publish data on complaints. This was a clear request from Chartered Trading Standards Institute in gaining accreditation to the previous codes.
  9. Buyers must be given more information about their new home including detailed specifications such as room sizes and ceiling heights; as well as inspection reports and all relevant building regulations. Developers must be clear as to whether roads will be adopted and if there are any estate management charges and how they will be calculated and governed.
  10. The New Homes Ombudsman should be appointed by government and its work overseen by a Junior Minister and NOT by the New Homes Quality Board. The Ombudsman should be free to improve on the Code of Practice being consulted on now and have substantial powers to penalise builders and compensate those buyers who find themselves in the trap of shoddy workmanship.

Point 10 refers to our concerns over the independence of the  New Homes Quality Board which appears to us to be overly industry-led. With these concerns about regulatory capture at play, we think it is important the NHQB demonstrate full transparency. This can start with publication of consultation responses to the Code of Practice, broken down by sectors with detailed responses of how concerns will be addressed. To demonstrate commitment to the highest levels of customer service, the Code – as was the case with its predecessor – should be submitted to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute for accreditation.

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? Please leave your comments below.

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