HomeOwners Alliance response to Call for Evidence on the New Home Ombudsman Enquiry
New Homes Ombudsman Enquiry All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment (APPGEBE) Email: Ktomaszewska@cic.org.uk 14 th December 2017 Dear Sir/Madam, HomeOwners Alliance response to Call for Evidence on the New Home Ombudsman Enquiry We fully agree with your diagnosis that buyers of new homes need stronger consumer protection. The present complaints systems and codes of conduct are not fit for purpose, and are more aimed at defending industry interests rather than satisfactorily resolving consumer complaints. The system is both very fragmented, with at least 6 different codes of conduct for new build alone (and another 3-4 on its way), and very weakly enforced. As just one example, the latest (2016) annual report from the Consumer Code for Home Builders shows: • 55% increase in complaints against homebuilders, up from 66 to 102 • Only 7% of homebuyers got their complaint fully upheld • 54.9% drop in average redress per complaint, from £1416 in 2015 to £638 in 2016 • 30% drop in total redress given to homebuyers, down to £65,108.42 • Only half (50%) of complainants accept the adjudicators decision (51 out of 102 total) • Homebuyers have to pay £120 just to make a complaint It has to be said, for the Consumer Code for Home Builders to fully uphold seven complaints in one year is progress of sorts, since it only fully upheld three complaints in total in the five years from 2010 to 2014 across the housebuilding industry. Behind these statistics lie stories of real stress, expense and anxiety for homebuyers, many of whom come to the HomeOwners Alliance for help. It is clear that rather than helping consumers, these industry codes and adjudicators clearly see their role as helping industry, which fuels massive cynicism, despair and anger. So we fully agree with your prescription, that there needs to be an ombudsman, independent from industry, which is empowered to cover complaints between new home buyers and housebuilders.