The first Annual Report by the Consumer Code for Home Builders since April 2014, was finally published this month.
In May 2014, I asked the question, Is the Consumer Code for Home Builders (CCHB) fit for purpose? In March this year I wrote that the Consumer Code for Home Builders is failing new homebuyers. This voluntary code was launched in April 2010 and has been inadequate and failing new homebuyers ever since.
In July, a report published by the APPG Inquiry Into Quality of New Homes found that:
- “The Code [Consumer Code for Home Builders] does not appear to give homebuyers the safeguards we think they should expect.
- It does not appear to us objectively to offer consumers a wholly satisfactory form of redress.
- The Consumer Code for Homebuilders is limited in its scope.”
APPG Inquiry recognises a government-appointed New Homes Ombudsman should be set up.
The APPG Inquiry “Key recommendation” is the setting up of a government-appointed New Homes Ombudsman. It said that the Ombudsman: “would need to be completely independent and replace the dispute resolution service offered as part of the Consumer Code for Home Builders.”
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.
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 idea for a New Homes Ombudsman is not new. I have been campaigning for nearly two years, see this blog, my website forum, the “Unhappy New Home Buyers” Facebook Group and lobbying on Twitter. More recently I attended the APPG Inquiry into the “Quality of New Build Housing in England” and proposed the introduction of a fully independent New Homes Ombudsman as one of a series of measures that would force house builders to improve both quality of the homes they build and the service they give their customers after they discover the inevitable defects and problems.
My proposal for a New Homes Ombudsman was met with widespread acceptance at the APPG Inquiry (2nd meeting) and during the question and answer session; Lord Richard Best said “I chair the property ombudsman which looks after estate agents and things like that and it works well, so at some stage I’d like to explore the Ombudsman concept as a way of trying to handle some of these disputes…..”