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Housebuilders should belong to independent ombudsman

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing watchdog / iStock-175214657

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Excellence in the Built Environment called on the government to make it mandatory for housebuilders to belong to a New Homes Ombudsman.

In its report published yesterday (26 June), Better Redress for Homebuyers, the APPG says the New Homes Ombudsman should be independent, free to consumers and provide a quick resolution to disputes.

The report recommends that the government, warranty providers, housebuilders and consumer groups should work together to draw up a code of practice that would be used by the New Homes Ombudsman to adjudicate on disputes.

This latest inquiry, which investigated how an ombudsman scheme could operate, follows a report – More Homes, Fewer Complaints – from the APPG in July 2016 on the quality and workmanship of new housing in England. It called for a New Homes Ombudsman after the evidence submitted during the inquiry indicated high levels of frustration and disappointment from buyers of new homes regarding the number of defects and problems in getting them fixed.

The recent inquiry highlighted similar issues, according to a statement from the Construction Industry Council (CIC), which provides the secretariat for the APPG, including a “plethora” of warranties, housebuilding codes and complaints procedures.

“Buying a new home is stressful enough but buying a defective one, as we heard from submissions and witnesses, can take a massive toll on people’s well-being as they wrestle with an almost Kafkaesque system seemingly designed to be unhelpful,” said APPG vice-chair Richard Best.

“The purchaser of a new home in this country should be confident that they are buying a high-quality product, no matter where they are or who built it. Our proposals could help to make this a reality.”

The report recommends that there is a single entry point for ombudsman services spanning the entire residential sector. This would cover the conduct of estate agents through to social housing.

“Within this overarching service, there would be either a number of specialist ombudsmen or specialist divisions. One of these would cover new homes – and this is the aspect our report is concentrating on with a view to establishing the case for a New Homes Ombudsman,” adds the CIC statement.

The APPG has also proposed that disputes taken to the New Homes Ombudsman should be noted in an annual report. Funding for the scheme would be paid for by a levy on housebuilders, with larger companies paying proportionately more.

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