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.
The NHBC launched its Register of Site Managers earlier this year. Their press release on 9 March 2016 said:
“Recognising the key role that site managers play in delivering high quality new homes, NHBC has developed a dedicated online resource to support them and assist in their development. With over 1,200 users in the first weeks, NHBC OnSite is an online resource providing site managers with access to a host of technical resources and career support and in addition, allows them to build their personal profile.”
It should be noted that the early take up could have been due to the free prize draw (an iPad Air 2, 16GB) for site managers signing up to NHBC OnSite before 30 April 2015. www.nhbcsitemanager.co.uk
Enough is enough! What will it take before government finally acts, not only to end the misery faced by the majority of people that buy new homes, but also to drastically reduce the likelihood of another death caused by a defect in a new home? Last week a defect in a Taylor Wimpey new home injures a 10 year old girl.
Time for action? APPG Chair Oliver Colvile MP
Since the APPG Inquiry published its Report ‘Into the Quality of New Homes’ three weeks ago, there has been zero coverage of its recommendations in national media. On a personal level, I have written to every single one of the 650 MPs asking for their support and to lobby the DCLG for the introduction of a New Homes Ombudsman. Just one MP has replied so far. Is anyone prepared to do anything before someone else is killed in a defective new home?
On 15th October 2005, a four-year-old boy died from chest injuries after a 50kg (110lb) stone mantelpiece over a fireplace fell on top of him at his Persimmon-built family home in Coulthard Close, Towcester.
In February 2008, Elouise Littlewood was 26 when she died in the flat she owned with Notting Hill Housing Trust built by Barratt Homes at their Bedfont Lakes complex in Hounslow. A post-mortem carried out on the body found the concentration of carbon monoxide in her blood was 77 per cent. Her lodger, Simon Kilby, was left with permanent brain damage after he was discovered unconscious on the sofa.
Only this morning I learned that on 28 July 2016, a radiator had detached from a wall and had fallen on 10 year-old Gemma Fever in the kitchen of the family’s Taylor Wimpey new home at their Rackenford Meadows development in Tiverton, Devon.
The All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry Into the Quality of New Homes In England has made ten recommendations and says house builders should be “upping their game and putting consumers at the heart of the business model. Alongside this, Government should use its influence to promote quality at every opportunity.” The cross party committee of MPs and construction experts called on the Government [DCLG] to set up a New Homes Ombudsman to mediate in disputes between homebuyers and housebuilders. This is the number one “key recommendation” of 10 recommendations setting out measures to improve the quality of workmanship in new homes and provide consumers with easier and cheaper forms of redress, to get defects and problems fixed.
APPG Inquiry Report Recommendations:
Recommendation 1: DCLG should initiate steps to set up a New Homes Ombudsman.
“The role would include mediating disputes between consumers and their builders or warranty providers to offer a quick resolution procedure paid for by a housebuilders’ levy. We see this is as the key recommendation to provide more effective consumer redress, if things go wrong, and a good way of applying pressure on housebuilders and warranty providers to deliver a better quality service. Our view is that the new service should be funded by a levy on the sector, but it would need to be completely independent and replace the dispute resolution service offered as part of the Consumer Code for Home Builders. Our recommendation picks up on one made by the Office of Fair Trading, in its 2008 market study into the house building industry, which suggested that, if the industry failed to make satisfactory progress, it would recommend further intervention in the form of a statutory redress mechanism for new homebuyers funded by a levy on the industry.
Although funded by the construction industry [housebuilders] it should be a public body not under the industry’s control. It should provide a cheap, quick and effective system of redress and have power to enforce standards and award compensation. This would put pressure on housebuilders to up their game in the first place and spur them on to improve workmanship and increase levels of service.”
MPs call for the DCLG to set up a New Homes Ombudsman in APPG Inquiry Report published on 13 July 2016.
At long last seven months after the last evidence session on 14 December 2015, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment (APPGEBE) has finally published the findings and recommendations in the report following its: “Inquiry Into the Quality of New Build Housing in England”
It would appear that the house builders’ share price rise since the financial crash of 2008, has been built on the same dodgy foundations as some of their houses are. A business model built on selling sub-standard houses to sub-prime borrowers.
This was illustrated during the first two days of trading following the UK’s historic vote leave the EU. Worst hit in the initial market panic were Banks and shares in the listed house builders. Despite this, some ever-greedy directors used the Friday crash to buy more shares on the cheap, known as “catching a falling knife” and promptly lost another 15%! Taylor Wimpey Non-Exec director Dame Kate Barker, 59, who produced the Barker Review on housing supply in 2004 – which resulted in the industry setting up the HBF Customer Satisfaction Survey two years later, but has failed to have any impact on improving either supply or quality – bought 20,000 Taylor Wimpey shares for £26,953 but the shares closed down 15% leaving her with a paper loss of £3,800.
Earlier today, BBC Radio 4 You and Yours interviewed Oliver Colvile MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry into the Quality of New Build Housing in England, looking into measures that would improve the quality of new-builds and how to give greater protection to new homebuyers.
Oliver Colvile MP told the programme:
“I am afraid I’ve had an awful lot of constituents who have come to see me and talk to me about how they don’t feel they have got the product which they thought they had actually bought.”
“The consumer wants to see, they want to actually see something that is going to deliver a quick and easy resolution as far as their contractual decisions have been made. After all, when we go and buy a new home it normally is the most expensive thing biggest investment which we make in the whole of our lives, for them [HBF] to be complacent I have to say, to say its 85% [satisfied with their homes] well what about the 15% then who have actually had a fairly a bad deal out of it. The other thing as well is that I don’t think the house builders generally understand that they’re dealings with the person who is buying it [the new home] isn’t necessarily always particularly brilliant. The consumer feels that actually somewhat concerned that they are actually banging their head against a brick wall, by trying to get the builders to take some notice of all of this.”
The waiting is nearly over. Its official! The New Home Ombudsman is coming! A culmination of two years’ campaigning and ten years dedicated work highlighting the plight of UK new homebuyers.
I spoke. They listened!
The APPG Inquiry report is being finalised and is due for publication in “at the beginning of June 2016.”
On Tuesday 17 May 2016, chair Oliver Colvile MP made a speech at the JCT Parliamentary Reception highlighting the findings and the main recommendations.
He said that he, and “many of his Parliamentary colleagues across the country have had new homebuyers coming to their MP’s surgeries to complain about the way their new home was built. Although the report hasn’t been finalised, I can confirm that the Inquiry Committee has agreed on a number of recommendations and I would like to share a few of those with you”
- A New Homes Ombudsman should be set up. This would mediate disputes between consumers and their builders or warranty providers to offer a quick resolution procedure.
- Standardised house building sales contracts should be enforced, meaning uncertainty surrounding bespoke builders’ contracts would be removed.
- There should be a mandatory right for buyers to inspect and, should they wish, carry out a full survey prior to financial completion. More details of this particular point will be announced in the final report.
- To improve transparency, builders should be required to provide homebuyers with a comprehensive information pack. This would include plain English explanations so that homebuyers can understand exactly what they are buying.”
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”