No Regulator or Ombudsman for complaints about house builders

It is not just house building that has dissatisfied customers. However,  most other industries have an Ombudsman and official Regulator.

If you bought a new home in the last ten years, the following statements will have a familiar ring to them. After all, the house building industry has a dreadful reputation for both quality and customer service, yet makes every effort to smokescreen and spin the opposite.

  • “Stop solving problems…just make the customer happy”
  • “staff are under pressure to bat away complaints and instead focus on appeasing callers to boost satisfaction ratings”
  • “persuading customers to believe all is fine is more important than getting to the bottom of their problems”
  • “All [the company] care about right now is the net promoter score. Staff are rated on this survey it sends out after a call or web chat. Well actually, on the first question only, “How would you rate [the company] to a friend?”
  • “one of the advisors I spoke to made promises they didn’t deliver. I wonder if this is the way they are trained – to reassure the customer but actually not to do anything.”
  • “other support departments are unhelpful and more interested in their own KPI, pretending they care about customers, but the reality is they are treating them appallingly”

The above comments could be from any new homebuyer or a whistleblower from most major house builders. The fact is, these statements were made about a large UK mobile phone provider in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, yet the similarities with the house building industry are staggering, right down to the Customer Satisfaction Survey and key question!

Scales of justiceThe only difference being that the consumer has a Communications Ombudsman to take their complaints to. In addition there is also a communications regulator (Ofcom) which has the power to issue fines and demand a company improve. Until the UK house building industry is brought to heel, customers will continue to be badly treated and have their complaints dismissed out of hand or ignored. A New Homes Ombudsman is essential. An official regulator for the new home industry is desirable.

If you have problems with a new home or house builder:
  1. Be sure to document all the problems with dates. You will need evidence so be sure to put everything in writing.
  2. Keep a record of everything. Letters, e mails, telephone conversations what was said by who with time and dates.
  3. Send letter by recorded delivery. It gives you proof it was received and shows the house builder you mean business and are serious.
  4. Send copies of your letters to the warranty provider, normally the NHBC. They can and will step in if the house builder continues to refuse to honour their obligations under the warranty.
  5. Demand a deadlock letter. You will need this if you want to go to arbitration with either the NHBC or the Consumer Code for Home Builders Adjudication Scheme. It will be useful if you choose to take the builder to court and fight for compensation as it demonstrates you have taken every reasonable step to seek resolution and have no other option.
  6. Write to your MP. Do not underestimate the power of an MP’s letter. Most MPs won’t bother to intervene, but unless MPs continually get letters from their constituents about their defect-ridden new homes and indifferent customer service from the house builders, nothing will be done to force the industry to improve. Don’t leave it to someone else! If your MP is unsympathetic or unwilling to do anything, don’t vote for them again!
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