Last July, Mark Clare retired as CEO of Barratt Developments after a nine-year stint in charge. Within a year of David Thomas taking over the helm, Barratt’s unique five-year new home warranty is no more, withdrawn in November 2015 – six years after being first being introduced.In their press release on 17 November 2009 Barratt, Britain’s biggest house builder by volume, proudly proclaimed that their new homes will be covered by a five-year guarantee of fixtures and fittings: “Items covered at no extra cost to the buyer will include appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators, kitchen units, wardrobes, the central heating system, fires, doors, windows, the hot and cold plumbing system, shower doors, sanitary ware and taps, ironmongery, electrical system, internal/external drainage, renewable energy installation (if fitted), and even the boundary brick walls and the driveway” said Barratt.
The five-year guarantee of fixtures and fittings in place at the time of purchase was in addition to the existing ten-year warranty on the structure of new homes and remained valid even if the home was sold on to a new owner. The exclusive offer, which was not available from any other house builder, marked “the culmination of an intensive programme in which the company has focused on raising further the industry-leading quality of its homes.”
At the time Mark Clare said:
“Because we have confidence in the outstanding quality of our build, we are confident that we can offer this additional reassurance to our customers at relatively little cost to our business. Our five-year warranty covers just about everything in the home for the first 1,824 days of occupancy. We will act as a one-stop shop for addressing any problems with components or workmanship. So our customers can be reassured that they won’t have to face any unexpected bills for which they haven’t budgeted. Moreover, the warranty stays with the home”
(note: 5 years = 1826 days!)
Whilst is was not quite as all-encompassing as Mr Clare would have you believe, it did set Barratt apart from its peers. So why has it gone? A Barratt Developments spokesman told me:
“Our research shows that having an extended warranty is not a high priority for customers. We therefore now provide a two year warranty on fixtures and fittings as well as a 10 year structural warranty. Our focus is on building right first time and ensuring that our industry leading customer satisfaction is maintained at over 90 per cent.”
A construction director from the company is alleged to have told a customer that it changed because Barratt found that they had very few claims in year’s three to five. Most of the problems being reported were within the first two years therefore Barratt decided it was of no benefit to any parties involved.
At the APPG Inquiry into the quality of new homes in England, it was suggested that all house builders should be responsible and liable for any defects occurring for the first FIVE years after completion, not two as presently required under the warranty. This would encourage house builders to be more quality focused. I told the committee that: “Barratt actually let people look at the homes they are buying at every stage of the build, inviting them to see their house and answer their questions. They are the only house builder I know of that does this. Barratt also give a five-year warranty, which doesn’t cover everything but at least it’s a five-year warranty. So I think Barratt have come a long way in getting where the industry needs to be.”
Following my presentation at the APPG Inquiry on the 23 November 2015, Barratt were soon added to the list of those making a submission at the last Inquiry session on 14 December 2015 although they did not do so. With pressure on all house builders to offer a five-year warranty, it seems strange that the one house builder that did, recently decided to withdraw it. A cynic might suggest that the house building industry asked Barratt to drop it; for fear that a mandatory five-year warranty would be imposed on every house builder.
The HBF continue to claim: “Homeowner satisfaction with new homes remains high, 86% being satisfied with the quality of their new homes.” and Barratt said it had “every confidence in the outstanding quality of our build, we are confident that we can offer this additional reassurance to our customers at relatively little cost to our business” – so presumably every other house builder also can if the industry’s quality claims are to be believed.
So what have the house builders got to fear from the introduction of a mandatory five-year warranty? Surely it would reassure their own customers that they won’t have to face any unexpected bills!