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…..”
At last! Peter Redfern admits quality is being compromised in the rush to build new homes
Taylor Wimpey CEO Peter Redfern has said that the Government’s target to build a million homes by 2020 is unachievable and quality will be compromised if the industry does try to meet it. Well if anyone should know about compromising the quality of new homes it’s Redfern! Taylor Wimpey has a terrible reputation for building poor quality homes and when their customers complain, an equally poor record and attitude to fixing these defects. This, despite the claims made on Taylor Wimpey’s website including: “The standard of home building in the UK has never been higher than it is today.” ” it’s like buying a brand new car and driving it out of the showroom” Only with a new car it is unlikely to have as many problems as a new Taylor Wimpey home!
Only last November, Taylor Wimpey were extensively featured on the Dispatches Documentary “Britain’s Nightmare New Homes.” In 2012 Taylor Wimpey were again panned on the BBC Watchdog programme.
The company’s unhappy buyers regularly lambast the builder on social media with the twitter feed #thinkwimpeythinktwice. On 5th December 2015, BBC South today recently featured the story of Evelyn Lallo who has been living in temporary home since June 2015, whilst Taylor Wimpey sorts out serious defects.
APPG Inquiry Second session: – What we suggested.
The majority of those that made submissions to this APPG inquiry into the “Quality of New Build Housing in England” were from either commercial organisations or institutions with a vested interest in or close affiliation to the house building industry. Their presentations would appear to be focused away from the actual problem – housebuilders’ poor workmanship standards and inadequate levels of customer care – with their emphasis on their own operations and/or sustainability and energy conservation. However, the committee were given presentations by what the APPG Secretariat (CIC) deemed “concerned citizens” four in the second session and one in the last session.
Bodge the builder – can they fix it?
Well probably yes, but they will move heaven and earth to avoid doing so. It is at this time of year that I like to produce a light-hearted article, poking fun at the general house building industry. However the increasing poor quality of new homes and the lack of any discernible after sales service mean that most new home buyers have experiences that are as far from funny as you can get.
Nevertheless, this year I am proud to announce the inaugural winners of the “BODGERS” awards. These are the awards for the very worse in everything housebuilding that I have come across over the last twelve months.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for “Excellence in the Built Environment” was formed in July 2010. The group is chaired by Oliver Colvile MP, with Nick Raynsford and the Earl of Lytton acting as vice-chairmen. The latest APPG Inquiry is looking at the Quality of New Build Housing in England and “examining the potential for improving every aspect of the product handed over to new home-owners.” (For details of the full committee see end of this article)
All housebuilders pay compensation eventually if it is justified!
When they say, “We don’t pay compensation” they’re lying – they all do!
Is compensation justified? Well the answer is a resounding yes for many new homebuyers that have experienced the inevitable issues with their new home. This often requiring buyers to take time off work, or use paid leave to be at home to give builder’s sub contractors access to fix fully preventable defects with their new home. The general law also compensates new build homebuyers for distress and inconvenience related to defects in their homes.
When new homebuyers bring up the subject of compensation, I can guarantee the initial response from the housebuilder, be it the sales staff, site manager or the housebuilder’s customer care department will be: “it is not our company policy to pay compensation under any circumstances”.
Well it was about time something was done regarding the dire quality of new homes built in the UK and the total indifference shown by the housebuilders to even begin address the thousands of defective new homes handed over to their misty-eyed customers every year. Something they have all been aware of for many years. This APPG Inquiry is a start.
Whether this latest inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment actually forces through the changes so badly required remains to be seen. At the outset, it is only an inquiry and we have had many previously including The Barker Review of Housing Supply in 2004 and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) ‘Home Building Consumer Survey’ of 2007. Yet as any UK new homebuyer will tell you, the quality of new homes has not improved. In the 2015 results of the HBF New Homes Customer Satisfaction Survey, some 93% of respondents had problems with their new home. Indeed the industry has done such a good job of normalising defective new homes that all of those surveyed actually expected to have some problems after they moved in.
The inquiry will look at the quality of UK new home building and the potential for improving every aspect of the product handed over to new home-owners.
Posted in New Homes, Snagging and Quality
Tagged customer care, end of year figures, help to buy, house builders, new homes, new homes ombudsman, NHBC, quality, snagging, standards
Following Persimmon being featured on BBC Watchdog and in my view let off lightly, last month, the BBC Watchdog office has been contacted by hundreds of disgruntled Persimmon new home buyers from as many as sixty different developments across the country with their experiences of unfinished homes, defects and poor customer care. See the Persimmon BBC Watchdog clip here
Homes not finished
On couple featured on last nights programme were Charlotte and Ashley Read who bought a new home on Persimmon’s Waters Edge estate in Cheshire. When they were handed the keys to their brand new £190,000 new home they found:
“it looked like a half finished house. Everything was a mess there were things incomplete, no rainwater pipes” causing damp and mould inside our home. I couldn’t believe we paid money for this, it was disgusting”
It took Persimmon THREE MONTHS to finally “sort everything out”
Other new home buyers also found Persimmon’s contractors still working in their homes when they came to move in – “the house wasn’t finished but Persimmon had declared it to be ready and taken their money anyway.”
The CML final certification was brought in to prevent housebuilders handing over unfinished new homes. The Council for Mortgage Lenders initiative requires this completion certificate, along with confirmation that the new home warranty is in place, before they release the mortgage funds. So how and why can a new home be signed off by a supposedly independent Building Inspector, quite often the NHBC, when clearly it anything but complete? How can the “inspectors,” the site manager and everyone else, miss something as obvious and quick and easy to fit as no rainwater downpipes?
The CML final inspection should to be made 14 days before the legal completion date. This is to give the solicitors and mortgage provider a minimum “14 days notice” to arrange for the funds and also would provide new home buyers with an opportunity to properly inspect their “finished home.” How is this notice period being avoided by Persimmon (and other housebuilders) especially in the weeks and days before their financial year end cut-off date?
Bovis homes’ website proudly (if somewhat unbelievably) claims:
“We build some of the best new homes in the UK.
We pride ourselves on being one of the country’s leading housebuilders and have established an enviable reputation for the quality of our build and design, high specification and excellent customer service.”
Well they would say that – but it can it be justified?
The truth was confirmed last Friday when the NHBC announced the 2015 winners of its Pride in the Job competition. “The NHBC Pride in the Job is the only UK-wide competition dedicated to recognising site managers who achieve the highest standards in house-building.”
Bovis site managers failed to win a single NHBC Quality Award!
For the first time in eight years, Bovis became the only large national plc housebuilder not employ a single site manager worthy of an NHBC Quality Award. Out of an average 97 “active sites” in 2014, not one of their site managers stood out above the crowd. Not one was able to demonstrate he cared about the quality of the homes built on his site. Not one possessed the “wide range of site management skills from technical knowledge and consistency in the build process to leadership and organisational skills, and achieving the highest possible standards and best practice in house building” that the NHBC judges were looking for.
No one cares at Bovis! They cannot even be botherd to set up a sprinkler to water new turf!
“Why choose Persimmon?” it says their website. Why indeed.
It remains a complete mystery to me why anyone in his or her right mind would actually choose to buy a new home from Persimmon. Especially when they can choose to buy from any five-star rated housebuilder with a history of winning NHBC awards for quality. Or at least avoid the worst of the housebuilders – those featured on national television programmes and in newspaper columns for both the poor standard of the homes they build and the lack of any resemblance of customer care when homebuyers discover the inevitable snags and defects, missed by the so called professionals employed by housebuilders such as Persimmon.
I am amazed that year after year, naïve young homebuyers get taken in by Persimmon’s marketing spin, some ending up in tears on national television with their fully preventable tales of woe. Preventable, because their homes could have been built with greater care. Preventable, because they could be built more slowly and all stages thoroughly checked and inspected by Persimmon site management, the warranty provider and building control inspectors. Preventable, because the government could and should introduce new legislation to protect all new homebuyers and provide an independent means of dispute resolution in the form of an Ombudsman for New Homes, rather than rely on a Consumer Code for Home Builders, set up and managed by housebuilders and other interested parties.
Talk is cheap.
All housebuilders make exaggerated claims about the homes they build and the “service” they offer to customers. Only in housebuilding could 93% of buyers experience a problem. Only in housebuilding would 47% of buyers be expecting the number of defects and problems they get. Yet they still buy new homes, year after year. Maybe they get taken in and assured by statements like these:
From the moment our customers reserve one of our new homes, we pledge to make the experience enjoyable and informative each step of the way.
We aim to take care of our customers, not just when they are buying but also when they have moved into their new home. All of our staff are trained to provide a high level of customer service and to deliver our comprehensive pre-move and after sales pledge to our customers.”
“On completion of your new home we will provide you with a quality assured certificate for you to keep within your Masterfile.”
Pity their homes are not 100% complete when some of their buyers are told they are! Persimmon also state on their website that: