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”
There were factual errors made in statements with the BBC presenter referring to the NHBC ‘warranty’ as a ‘guarantee’.
Warranty: 1) A written guarantee promising to repair or replace an article if necessary within a specific period. 2) An engagement by an insured party that certain statements are true or certain conditions shall be fulfilled.
Guarantee: 1) A formal assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled, especially that a product will be of a specified quality. 2) Something that makes an outcome certain.
The new home warranty, is in essence an insurance policy paid for by the builder, to provide cover against any latent defects that may occur in the new home. It is not and never has been, a guarantee of any kind.
NHBC warranty claims
The £87million “compensation” figure for “2015” mentioned by the presenter was in reality the amount the NHBC spent rectifying defective new homes after claims were made by buyers under the warranty to April 2015 – not “in 2015” as stated. It was most definitely NOT compensation directly paid by housebuilders as the presenter implied. Nevertheless the NHBC do receive the majority of their funding from the housebuilders as insurance premiums for new home warranty policies. The NHBC do not pay buyers any compensation under the warranty.
This is why a New Homes Ombudsman is so important and so essential!
On the feature the presenter said that new homebuyers “can’t get problems fixed. The NHBC can recommend that the builder does repairs but the builder can refuse to do them.”
New homebuyers Lee & Jackie Gilcrest moved into their 5 bed £480,000, David Wilson Home in December 2014. They told the BBC they have had constant problems with it ever since they moved in. It was cold so the radiators were upgraded to double radiators. The owners claim that in the winter it was costing £10 a day to heat their home – £300 month. They said the EcoTherm insulation installed was only 100mm thick and should have been 190mm. They also claimed that none of the windows and doors had been installed correctly and none have been sealed.
“We were talking to David Wilson Homes and getting nowhere. When you think you are finally making progress, in the end they turned around and said they are not prepared to do any more of your issues anymore despite it being under two years and their responsibility, handing over all our defects to the NHBC. The NHBC ruled in our favour and the builder had to rectify it, David Wilson Homes have turned round and basically spat us out, the NHBC are pretty much back-tracking on what they’ve been saying. We’ve been given a pot of money and been told to be quiet.”
David Wilson Homes told the BBC in a statement that they are sorry and are working hard to fix the problems. The overwhelming majority of buyers on the estate were happy and they had had few complaints.
The NHBC say they are: “committed to treating homeowners fairly as a central philosophy within our business strategy.” They aim to understand homeowners’ need and be recognised, understood and appreciated by homeowners for the ongoing development and delivery of high standards to improve the construction standards of new homes. Leading the industry in providing solutions to remedy new home construction problems and when home construction problems occur, provide homeowners with a fair and simple claims service which offers a lasting solution.