The BBC Radio 4 ‘You and Yours’ programme on 26 October 2016, was a great opportunity to further promote the setting up of a government-appointed New Homes Ombudsman and the implementation of the other nine APPG report recommendations. This is necessary because as the APPG Inquiry discovered, both housebuilders and warranty providers are failing new homebuyers despite a record £81million being spent on claims under the NHBC warranty to April 2015. It was disappointing that this Petition to Government was not mentioned.
The recent repeat of a BBC TV documentary, “Inside the Commons” – showed how government works and without a parliamentary debate, the APPG recommendations are very unlikely to be implemented anytime soon. Individual MPs, even if they are successful in the Private Member’s Bill ballot, rarely see their bill become law.
This You and Yours broadcast on BBC Radio 4 featured the ubiquitous new home buying “victim” selected to tell their ‘tale of woe’ with possible practical solutions to the widespread problems the industry is causing, overlooked or touched on very briefly. The programme gave housebuilder David Wilson Homes the opportunity to issue the usual insincere housebuilder statement:- “rare isolated incidence – we are truly sorry – working with the homeowner to remedy as soon as possible”
Buyer beware: The great leasehold new house scam
When will the incessant greed of housebuilders reach its zenith? Not content with charging premium house prices, large plc housebuilders keep coming up with new ways to squeeze every last drop of additional profit from unsuspecting new homebuyers. It started with overpriced optional extras and upgrades. Then shared driveways and non-existent front gardens enabled housebuilders to cram in even more homes on their developments. Next came the Freehold house with Leasehold type management charges – inescapable “annual rentcharges for maintenance of communal amenities on the development”, commonly around £200 a year for each home, normally for ‘maintaining’ landscaped areas.
Also becoming increasingly common, are charges for private roads, footpaths and street lighting on developments. These charges are even more galling when builders fail to fully-complete these areas for months, sometimes years after the last house was built and sold.
The website Home Owners Rights Network has been set up to fight the unfairness of these charges and campaign for a change in the law. The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership was set up to protect ordinary leaseholders.
Now some housebuilders have taken fleecing buyers to a whole new level. Selling Leasehold new houses, but at Freehold prices. There can be no other reason for this other than to increase their bottom line. As the Daily Mail reported in May 2015, two new housing estates were being built in on either side of London Road in Peterborough. At the time, Persimmon were building 50 new homes at “The Edge” on the east side, selling three bedroom homes for £158,995 – £180,000. On the other side of the road at “The Sycamores” Barratt were building 80 new homes, almost identical in appearance, with a three-bedroom property costing from £163,995.
The first Annual Report by the Consumer Code for Home Builders since April 2014, was finally published this month.
In May 2014, I asked the question, Is the Consumer Code for Home Builders (CCHB) fit for purpose? In March this year I wrote that the Consumer Code for Home Builders is failing new homebuyers. This voluntary code was launched in April 2010 and has been inadequate and failing new homebuyers ever since.
In July, a report published by the APPG Inquiry Into Quality of New Homes found that:
- “The Code [Consumer Code for Home Builders] does not appear to give homebuyers the safeguards we think they should expect.
- It does not appear to us objectively to offer consumers a wholly satisfactory form of redress.
- The Consumer Code for Homebuilders is limited in its scope.”
APPG Inquiry recognises a government-appointed New Homes Ombudsman should be set up.
The APPG Inquiry “Key recommendation” is the setting up of a government-appointed New Homes Ombudsman. It said that the Ombudsman: “would need to be completely independent and replace the dispute resolution service offered as part of the Consumer Code for Home Builders.”
With greater protection for those that buy them!
The only way the housebuilding industry will change for the better, is if enough people sign this petition. This Government is pre occupied with its blinkered approach to increasing quantity of new homes being built, throwing billions of taxpayer’s money at housebuilders in the process. Just last week another £5bn was earmarked for an industry that cares so little for its own customers and the quality of the product they sell.
An all party group of MPs had an Inquiry last year Into the Quality of New Homes. The Inquiry Report made ten recommendations, including the number one “key recommendation” the setting up of a New Homes Ombudsman. All of the recommendation have the potential to not only force housebuilders to improve the quality of the homes they build, but also give those that buy new homes better protection via access to a New Homes Ombudsman.We have been here before with the Barker Review of 2004, Office of Fair Trading Market Study of Home Building in the UK October 2008, and now more recently the APPG Inquiry 2016. Yet surprisingly, there has not been any legislation to force this failing industry to improve.
In February 2016, the government asked the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) to look at the labour model within the construction industry and the pressures on skills and other constraints that limit housebuilding and infrastructure development in the UK. The CLC commissioned Mark Farmer to undertake a review and his report, The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model was published on 17 October 2016.
The independent Farmer Review, commissioned by two Government departments, highlights construction’s dysfunctional training model, its lack of innovation and collaboration as well as its non-existent research and development (R&D) culture. Farmer says the construction sector must “modernise or die” and faces “inexorable decline” unless radical steps are taken to address its longstanding problems.
It has been over seven months since Taylor Wimpey released its results for the full year to 31 December 2015 (1 March 2016). This included a statement from Chief Executive Peter Redfern, which recognised improvement was needed with regard to his company’s poor customer satisfaction levels. Perhaps it is time to take stock and conduct our own ‘Redfern Review’.
Peter Redfern said:
“During 2015, we achieved a customer satisfaction score of 86% (2014: 87%). We are disappointed that this has slipped. Whilst we operate in a cyclical market, we strongly believe that a customer centric approach is needed throughout the cycle. During 2015 we completed an in-depth review of every aspect and stage of our Customer Journey, to identify areas of improvement and to deliver a better homebuying experience for our customers. Throughout the review, our focus has been on understanding our customers’ priorities to enable us to deliver at and ahead of expectations. We have also commenced the process of rolling out our new customer approach across the business with a focus on three main areas: our culture, management structure and process. This is to ensure that going forward we deliver the right product, supported by excellent customer service to all our customers at every stage of their journey with Taylor Wimpey.
Yet more funding for housebuilders! Whatever became of austerity, “there’s no money left” and “balancing the budget by 2020”? So is the country now awash with spare cash? Of course not. According to the national debt clock, the UK is borrowing another £5,170 per SECOND or £1.86m an hour! The National debt is currently £1,762,340,000,000 (1.76trn), this equates to £28,291 for every person living in the UK or £48,600 for each UK taxpayer! So I find it totally incomprehensible that another £5bn is being added, to further and unnecessarily subsidise private housebuilding under the guise of increasing the number of new homes built.We have already had the ‘The Osborne Stupidity’ – ‘Help to Buy’ fuelling house prices and housebuilders’ record profits. Now we have the ‘The May Lunacy’ ‘Help to Build’, yet more funding for housebuilders. Last week the Theresa May’s government announced two major housing initiatives; a £3bn Home Building Fund – £2bn long term funding for infrastructure and £1bn short term loan funding aimed towards enabling smaller developers enter the market. As is often the case with government announcements of supposedly “new funds” £1.2bn of the £3bn was previously announced as the Large Sites Infrastructure Fund in 2015. In addition, a new £2bn “Accelerated Construction Programme” aiming at getting new homes built more quickly on public land.
This was a question I was asked at the APPG last November. Surely, if there was a real problem with the quality of new homes, why is it that so few actually complain and go public with their experiences? It is a question I often ask myself, knowing as I do that 93% of new homebuyers will report problems to their housebuilder very soon after being handed the keys. Imagine the public outcry if 93% of new cars went back to the dealer for faults to be fixed after a few days or weeks! Indeed, if new homes were cars they wouldn’t be fit to go on the roads! So why is it that out of a potential 129,300 people that bought a new home in the year to 30 June 2016 and reported problems to the housebuilder, most chose to stay silent? Even more astounding are 86% that the HBF claim “would recommend their housebuilder to a friend” – although the HBF 8-week customer survey results appear to be being manipulated by the big housebuilders.
Adversely affect the future value – more difficult to sell
Lord Richard Best said: “I think another factor could be that people don’t want to moan about their new home having invested such a large amount of money, and knowing that one day they’re going to sell it to. It’s counterintuitive to rubbish something that you’re going to sell later, which you’ve invested so heavily in.”
It has been nearly three months since the APPG Inquiry Report Into the Quality of New Homes was published along with its recommendations on 13 July 2016.
After some not inconsiderable enquiring to the APPG MP’s, I was contacted by Helen Hayes (pictured below) last week who has kindly updated me and confirmed the current situation:
“The APPG’s inquiry report has now been published and has been presented to the government for a response. Oliver Colvile has met with the Prime Minister to discuss it, and I understand that the initial response was quite positive.
The APPG awaits the government’s formal response, and when Parliament resumes sitting we will seek to chase this if it is not provided in a timely manner. It is not within the power of an APPG to implement the recommendations of the report, as this is a matter for the government, and the setting up of a new Ombudsman would require legislation which it would be for the government to introduce – even if the government takes up this recommendation, which I hope they will, this would take some time to progress through Parliament.
All members of the APPG are fully signed up to the recommendations of the report and will continue to work towards their implementation through the routes that are available to us as back bench MPs and members of the APPG.