A personal plea to Construction Minister Nick Boles

Dear Mr Boles,
You recently said that you regard house builders as the “unacceptable face of capitalism” after seeing first hand the shoddy workmanship of two house builders in your own constituency, adding housebuilders   “need to design beautiful places that respect the local environment, and they need to build houses to a high quality which will stand the test of time. If they don’t, I cannot and will not defend them.”

I have been campaigning for 8 years via my website www.brand-newhomes.co.uk and my blog www.new-home.blog.co.uk to make the public more aware of the poor quality and design of new homes and housebuilders’ poor and often non-existent after sales service.

Your government has done more for the house building industry than any other government and continues to be the “gift that keeps on giving”. Only this week, stamp duty was reformed. Whilst this is good news for the majority UK house buyers and very welcome, it is also particularly good news for housebuilders, now able to increase their prices even more now that stamp duty threshold ‘chokes’ have been removed. This follows the 20% discount on new homes for first-time buyers under 40, in addition to: NewBuy, FirstBuy and the biggest taxpayer subsidy of all: “Help to Buy” which has ‘helped’ house builders to record profit rises by increasing average selling prices by 20%. Furthermore, your government has relaxed planning rules, requirements to build affordable housing,  Section 106 obligations, Community Infrastructure Levy and the zero-carbon homes policy. There has never been a better time to be a major British home builder.  Ask, and ye shall receive!

If it was not for the dogged determination of Kirsty Burton and her neighbours, perhaps you would never have witnessed first hand the dire quality standards at a Persimmon estate in your constituency. You personally also discovered the complete contempt housebuilders have for anyone calling them to task over the quality of their homes and their indifference to dealing with defects in their customer’s homes. Quite frankly, if a government minister is unable to get a satisfactory response from Persimmon CEO Jeff Fairburn, what chance have the buyers of this company’s new homes?

But please do not make the mistake that this is a new phenomenon,  restricted to just one or two housebuilders on a handful of developments. It is a national epidemic!

I could tell you of a Bellway customer who had his home bought by the NHBC and demolished because the mortar was too weak, the incorrect bricks had been used and the NHBC’s own carpentry contractors had so badly bodged a previous repair to his roof, he had to move out as it was too dangerous.

Taylor Wimpey 9 months small sizeI could tell you of a Taylor Wimpey buyer who has had to endure 50 days of remedial works in his new home over a 12 month period since he first moved in. There are similar horror stories from buyers of Wainhomes, Barratt, Jones, Bovis, Bloor, and Linden to name but a few. The HBF would have you believe that their Consumer Satisfaction Surveys point to increased levels of “5 Star” satisfaction. But the reality is, even with the slanted survey results (that only represent around 30% of new homes built each year), 96% of new home buyers have problems with their new homes. It has got so bad that nearly all new homebuyers actually expect and anticipate “teething problems” when they move in.

It is not just the absence of quality or customer service that needs looking at. Housebuilders regularly breach the requirements of their own  Consumer Code for Home Builders – this was the industry’s response to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 – to resolve complaints quickly, cheaply and most importantly quietly and confidentially out of court. Two of the most common breaches are deliberately misleading or withholding information, and forcing or coercing buyers into using the housebuilder’s choice of solicitor, despite the obvious potential conflict of interest. Housebuilders continue to pay little more than lip service to their own Code and the Consumer Protection Regulations 2008.

I have been campaigning for a specific  New Homes Ombudsman for new home buyers. Totally independent, he would be able to regulate and arbitrate, driving improvements to both the quality of new homes and builder’s customer service. Without a New Homes Ombudsman, nothing is going to change. You said that if housebuilders “do not build houses to a high quality which will stand the test of time. I cannot and will not defend them.”

All the evidence you need is there, now is the time to do something about it!

I feel very passionately about the way the British public is being duped and taken advantage of by “big housebuilding” The Unhappy New Home Buyers Facebook action group I administer is starting to gain momentum. However, the UK house building industry requires more regulation not less, with proper and effective enforcement to ensure housebuilders improve and behave both professionally and responsibly, rather than selfishly as they currently do, prioritising numbers and profit ahead of quality and service  –  “Don’t care should be made to care”

If you truly want to do something positive for UK new home consumers and show you personally care – now is the time! Or was your recent press coverage regarding the poor quality of new homes little more than pre-electioneering?

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