Tag Archives: snagging

New Homes Quality Code of Practice

House builders’ new Code of Practice

The New Homes Quality Board [NHQB] “championing quality new homes and Better consumer outcomes” “Code of Practice” – “New Homes Quality Code” – “House Building Consumer Code”-  “The Code”  call it what you like, but is it has the potential to be pretty much as useless as the Consumer Code for Homebuilders [CCHB] it replaces, unless it is properly and independently enforced.

Will the onus be on the new homebuyer to prove (or have physical evidence) that Code requirements were breached, as was the case with the old and ineffective, CCHB, or will house builders now be required to show physical evidence to prove they complied with Code requirements?

An industry Code of Practice was originally recommended following an Inquiry by the APPG EBE  with their report, “Better Redress for Homebuyers”  published in June 2018. Report recommendation (5) states: “Industry-wide code of practice: We are recommending that government, warranty providers, housebuilders and consumer groups work together to draw up a code of practice which would be used by the New Homes Ombudsman to adjudicate on disputes.”

Subsequently, the Government consultation ‘Redress for purchasers of New Build Homes and the New Homes Ombudsman‘ finally published – 102 days later than the 84-day target – on 24 February 2020,  again championed the suggestion of an industry-created Code of Practice and eventually this new house builders’ Code of Practice  was created by the NHQB.

As I said in a previous blog article at the time, Redress? When will New Homes Ombudsman be operational? any industry collaborated/created Code of Practice will invariably be used to limit or restrict the redress available to new homebuyers and the effectiveness and powers of the New Homes Ombudsman (as has been the case with the industry’s own CCHB).

This must not be permitted.

The New Homes Ombudsman whether voluntary or eventually statutory, must not be confined to decisions arising only from a breach of requirements of the Code of Practice and every complaint should be judged on its own individual circumstances and merits.

The New Homes Quality Board finally published its new “Code of Practice” for house builders and developers on 16 December 2021. Having taken the time to digest its expansive 30 pages (8,752 words) and a further 17 pages of “Developer Guidance” it would appear to be much more detailed and far less ambiguous as the Consumer Code for Homebuilders (CCHB) (11 pages 3,034 words) it replaces.

Whilst most of the old CCHB has been ‘cut and pasted’ to the new Code there are significant new requirements which should go some way to redressing the balance towards the new homebuyer and force errant plc housebuilders to finally smell to coffee and mend their scandalous treatment of their own customers.

Statement of Fundamental Principals
The new Code sets out a clear and unambiguous “Statement of Principals (the Fundamental Principles); fundamental and overriding obligations which Registered house builders and developers agree to follow when building and selling customers a new home.

  1. Fairness: treat Customers fairly throughout the home buying and AfterSales process.
    This is probably the most useful, as any detraction will be a fundamental breach.
  2. Safety: carry out and complete works in accordance with all requisite Building Regulations and Requirements.
    Any breach of building regulations will be a breach of Code requirement(s)
  3. Quality: complete all works to a good quality in accordance with all applicable building and other standards and regulations as well as to the specification for the New Home and ensure that Legal Completion only takes place when a New Home is complete.
    A “complete new home” being defined as one which has a warranty cover note issued and where the new home complies with building regulations. But the home can have solely decorative/corrective works outstanding and temporary services connected, which could be via a generator for example! So plenty of builder wiggle room there!
  4. Service: have in place systems, processes and training of staff to meet the Customer service Requirements of the New Homes Quality Code and not use high-pressure selling techniques to influence a Customer’s decision to buy a New Home.
    Just how will this be proved by the homebuyer, measured and enforced?
  5. Responsiveness: be clear, responsive and timely in responding to Customer issues by having in place a robust AfterSales Service and effective Complaints process as required by the Code.
    No definition of what will be deemed “robust” or “effective2 but failure to meet required Code timescales should be considered a breach.
  6. Transparency: provide clear and accurate information about the purchase of the New Home, including tenure and potential future committed costs such as those relating to Leasehold or Management Services.
    Saying isn’t doing. This is already enshrined in UK Law and the industry’s historic failure (leasehold and fleecehold scandals) demonstrates that ‘requiring’ without proper enforcement and sanctions for those found to be breaching Code requirements is unlikely to ensure compliance.
  7. Independence: make sure that Customers are aware that they should appoint independent legal advisers when buying a New Home and that they have the right, as set out in the Code, to an independent Pre-Completion Inspection before Legal Completion takes place.
    The biggest step forward. But as examined below, the pre inspection right has strings attached to limit thorough and effective inspections.
  8. Inclusivity: take steps to identify and provide appropriate support to Vulnerable Customers as well as to make the Code available to all Customers, including in appropriately accessible formats and languages.
    Biggest benefit will be for those considering buying a retirement flat/property, which has a long history of excessive fees, event fees and covenants.
  9. Security: ensure that there are reasonable financial arrangements in place, through insurance or otherwise, to meet all obligations under the Code, including timely repayment of financial deposits when due and any financial awards made by a New Homes Ombudsman Service.
  10. Compliance: be subject to, co-operate and comply with the Requirements of the New Homes Quality Board and a New Homes Ombudsman Service.
Pre Completion inspection Requirement 2.8 & 2.11 (C)

The stand out requirement is the right for new homebuyers – or their “suitably qualified inspector” – to a pre-legal completion inspection. The pre-completion inspection must be carried out from five calendar days after the notice to complete has been served and before legal completion.  But this has plc house builder’s paw prints all over it. For example th inspection can only be carried out using the NHQB “Template Pre-Legal Completion Checklist” -yet to be made public! For more comment on this key Code requirement and its current shortcomings click  Pre-Legal Completion Inspection.

Legal and other professional advisors

For the first time, it is a requirement (1.7) that the house builder disclose any fees or commission they receive at the time of reservation, referral, or purchase for introducing any professional advisor such as solicitor or mortgage brokers.

As previously with the CCHB (Req 2.5) the house builder is forbidden to restrict the homebuyer’s choice of legal representative to any solicitor or any one from a list recommended by the builder. In addition, the house builder can no longer limit any incentive or inducement when recommending any such services, which was previously permitted by the old CCHB (Requirement 2.5). Even despite the old CCHB requirement 2.5, restricting homebuyer’s choice of solicitor to one the builder required was a common practice. Perhaps now the new crystal clear Code requirements and the law will be properly enforced.

Provide all relevant information.

More precisely, this should be all information. However, added to the expanded list over and above the old CCHB is a requirement to including tenure, management charges, estate charges and event fees etc. Information should also include details of services facilities which transfer to the buyer at a later date such as utilities, restrictions on provision of services and service providers; drainage, non-adopted roads and public open spaces. (Fleecehold) Details of the new home should now include any “significant” gradients to the garden and grounds of the new home. Clearly previous complaints under the CCHB have been considered.

Other requirements

New requirements for part-exchange, assisted moving schemes and early-bird arrangements.

Another new requirement (2.3) is a 14-day cooling off period, during which the new homebuyer can cancel their reservation for any reason and receive a full refund of any fees.

For the first time a house builder Code with requirements for fixing defects and snags

It is a requirement that house builders must ensure that snags and defects reported to them are dealt with promptly, within a maximum of 30 calendar days, other than where there is an exceptional reason for delay. The new Code of Practice (3.4) sets out time-scales for each of the required written house builder responses, following receipt of a new homebuyer’s complaint. If any of the issues in the complaint are not resolved within the timetables or procedures (56 days after the initial complaint) then new homebuyer can refer a dispute to the New Homes Ombudsman Service.

As with everything plc house builders create, it could well be 2023 before any of this actually comes into being. House builders and developers are able to register with the NHQB from 31 January 2022 to the end of 2022.

The cynic in me believes that it is likely that most plc housebuilders will leave “registering” until after their year-end or half-year figures (30 June) meaning buyers will not be able to use the New Homes Ombudsman Service or have the right inspect their homes before legal completion. Indeed, many house builders may even delay registering until late December 2022.

Anyone buying a new home this year, should ask if the house builder is registered with NHQB as they will not be able to access the New Homes Ombudsman Service if the builder is not registered at the time they reserve (or legally complete) on their home “whichever is the later”.

The New Homes Ombudsman Service is due to be in operation in “early 2022” details of the scheme are yet to be made public. After my 8-year long campaign  I am watching and waiting!

UPDATE: On 8th March 2022, the NHQB has confirmed to me:

“In terms of builder registration, we have started with a soft launch by invitation only, in order to test that our systems and processes are working as expected.  So far we have invited 14 builders and had responses from 10.  Of those, 8 have completed the application process and are now in the transition period, completing their training and other readiness preparations before going live.

We expect to send the next tranche of invitations out in the next couple of weeks, and envisage the system being fully opened for all applications during May.”

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Persimmon Launches Homebuyer Retention Policy

Persimmon announce 1.5% homebuyer retention policy

Persimmon homes - giving greed a bad nameIn a blaze of positive publicity, under headlines such as Persimmon homebuyers can withhold money until faults fixed (well not exactly); the housebuilder everyone loves to hate, has launched what is claimed will be a ground breaking initiative and a first for the industry, in response to overwhelming criticism about the quality of its homes, the obscene corporate greed-fest of executive bonuses and its part in the leasehold scandal,  Persimmon homebuyer retention “allowing buyers to withhold an average of £3.600 per home until all faults are fixed”

Nils Pratley in The Guardian suggests the homebuyer retetention could have been called the ‘Jeff Fairburn memorial clause’ – an eye-catching gesture designed to combat Persimmon’s reputation for corporate greed, as embodied by Fairburn’s infamous £75m bonus.”

A few weeks ago Nils said, in another well-written article: “It’s nice that the housebuilder wants to address its substandard scores for customer service, but shouldn’t this thought have occurred when the executives, Jenkinson included, were racking up their millions?” 

Not forgetting, this is a company that has also now admitted it lobbied government in 2015 to abandon the zero carbon policy for new homes.

In the Financial Times, Persimmon’s recently-appointed CEO Dave Jenkinson said:

“Persimmon is listening hard to all of its stakeholders and we hear the message that we need to continue to raise our game in customer care.

CEO Dave Jenkinson announces Persimmon homebuyer retention

“The initiatives we have already announced, including the action taken in the new year to deliver greater accuracy of anticipated moving in dates by adopting a more targeted approach to the phasing of sales on specific sites and the improvements and investments that we have made in our customer care team, operations and technology over the last few months are beginning to take effect.

“We are now accelerating the pace of change through the introduction of a contracted retention, which will give homebuyers far greater satisfaction at the completion of the purchase.  

“Moving into a new home should be a positive experience enhanced by all the benefits of a new build that is designed for modern living.  We are determined that the experience is not overshadowed by teething problems and providing a homebuyer’s retention is an important step towards achieving this.

Chairman Roger Devlin, said:
“This is a first among the UK’s large housebuilders and I hope will lead the way in change across the sector. This move, and the urgency with which we will introduce it, is a clear and unambiguous signal of cultural and operational change at Persimmon putting customer care at the very centre of the business.”

Other “improvements” include offering maintenance appointments at weekends and out-of-hours opening of customer care departments.

In the big announcement, Persimmon said it “would implement the homebuyer’s retention, by writing into its standard sale contract that 1.5% of the property value (£3,600 on average) could be withheld by the buyer’s solicitor until any faults identified at the point of key release are resolved
Update: During the time it took Channel 4 Dispatches to make ‘Britain’s New Build Scandal’ June-July 2019, featuring Persimmon, the time limit  buyers had to report faults was extended to 7 days.

The homebuyer retention policy, announced in haste, won’t be fully in place until the end of June 2019 – so much for its claim “we are now accelerating the pace of change”! But why wait until June? It’s hardly Brexit! Well, the end of June is Persimmon financial half-year, so homes could be rushed to get them included for the half-year. In addition, Persimmon will need to start building better, much better and all homes completed after the end of June, will not yet be started.

But quite frankly, this could easily be implemented at the beginning of April, fittingly perhaps on April Fool’s day as in my opinion, buyers and the government would be fools if they believe this small sticking plaster on a disgraceful housebuilder that gives greed a bad name, will make any noticeable positive difference for buyers.

Unlike the Barratt 5-year warranty, which despite its exclusions, was a corporate statement of quality: “our product is so good we are so confident we can afford to give our buyers a longer warranty”  The Persimmon homebuyer retention announcement shouts: “our product is so bad, we have decided to allow our customers to withhold part of their payment until we have sorted out defects”

This scheme is also  unlikely to cost Persimmon anything, with any costs being borne by the sub-contract companies it employs.  Retentions are deducted on all sub-contractor payments. Half is usually returned 6 months after the buyer moves in, with the balance normally after two years. The percentage retention is negotiated at the time the contract is drawn up, often used by housebuilders as a bargaining tool to force their sub-contractors to discount their rates or accept payment terms “monthly valuation on account.” Most sub-contractors tend to view any returned retention as a bonus, as it is priced into their rates.

Persimmon homebuyer retention – so what is not to like?
This is not as it first appears. For a start, this only applies to “faults” (I prefer the term defects) that excited and distracted buyers note and report at the time they are first given the keys. Why not make it for ALL DEFECTS notified to Persimmon in the first 6 or 9 months? It should not be limited to just those small, quickly dealt with, cosmetic “faults” which may, or more likely, may not be spotted by buyers on the day they first get the keys to their new home.  This will certainly not be of any help to buyers that later discover they have weak mortar, cracking render, issues with their floors or serious fire safety issues like this 

If Persimmon really are “determined that the experience is not overshadowed by teething problems” why does the company routinely refuse to allow their buyers and/or their professional snagging inspectors access to their homes to check the property before legal completion?

Persimmon "Teething" problem?The homebuyer retention monies are also to be held by the buyer’s solicitor. In most cases this is highly likely to be one that Persimmon has suggested, recommended, or in some cases, even bribed or required the buyer to use. A recent government inquiry found conveyancing solicitors are too close the house builder. There is a clear conflict of interest. The report says: “buyers’ interests ‘cannot be served where they are coerced into using developer-recommended conveyancing solicitors, who rely on repeat business from developers and may not be inclined to put their client’s interest first.”
This is also against the Law – The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, In addition, it also breaches requirement 2.5 of the “limited in its scope” Consumer Code for Homebuilders and SRA rules on conflicts of interest. Yet this has been going on for years! Furthermore, as Patrick Hosking notes in The Times, “there’s a danger the scheme will descend into countless legal disputes, with buyers’ solicitors quickly swallowing up that cash buffer in fees” indeed, as sure as night follows day.

Sebastian O’Kelly, 58, chief executive of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, told The Times: “Persimmon has an open-ended liability on the snagging issues. If they build something appalling, and so many of our plc housebuilders build houses and flats with major defects, then they have a responsibility to fix them. I don’t think consumers would be able to take much comfort from this.”

So why are Persimmon doing this?
The homebuyer retention initiative comes following statements that the company is to improve customer satisfaction levels after being dogged by complaints about poor build quality. There had been murmurings lately about a buyer’s retention. Paula Higgins from the Home Owners Alliance told The Times last month that her idea of buyer’s being able to hold a 2.5% retention for 6 months “would be a powerful incentive for builders to put problems right”   I told The Times it would be an “administrative nightmare” and that “6 months would be too short.” Unbelievably, I even found myself agreeing, for the first time, with Steve Turner of the Home Builders Federation , when he said that “introducing retentions as the rest of the construction sector is scrapping them is a crude and naïve suggestion that could reduce consumer protection and risks creating a long drawn out legal process – the new homes ombudsman is a better way to help buyers.”  Trade bodies call to scrap retention Retention in construction under review

Pressure from Government – withdrawal of Help to Buy
In February, The Guardian reported that Persimmon’s right to use Help to Buy was under the scrutiny of Housing Secretary James Brokenshire, who was considering stripping Persimmon of its right to sell properties using Help To Buy because of poor satisfaction levels and concerns on the housebuilder’s behaviour. Persimmon has benefitted immensely from the Help to Buy scheme. Nearly half its 16,449 home sales last year were made through the taxpayer-funded scheme.

A source close to the minister said:
“Leasehold, build quality, their leadership seemingly not getting they’re accountable to their customers, are all points that have been raised by the Secretary of State privately,”

Help to Buy, should never have been extended and should now be cancelled on economic grounds but, if the government wants to keep the housebuilders’ gravy train running, originally due to end in 2016 yet twice extended, first until March 2021 and more recently to March 2023, Government should at least attach a few requirements and conditions that specifically benefit new homebuyers.

Persimmon needs evidence to shoe that they are changing their behaviour under the threat of parliamentary time being found to debate this, perhaps even a select committee inquiry. The homebuyer retention scheme, weekend appointments and the changes to customer care availability hours are little more than tokenism to keep government at bay. It looks like a cheap PR job which has given the company some much needed, positive, coverage in the quality national press.

Persimmon’s premium rating by the NHBC and LABC/PREMIER GUARANTEE may have increased dramatically. The homebuyer retention scheme may be being used to reduce their warranty premiums like an insurance voluntary excess.

An attempt to improve Persimmon’s dire HBF 8-week survey 3 star rating
Persimmon rated 3 star for 5 years in a row!Persimmon Homes have been rated just 3 stars for the fifth year in a row. Jenkinson even mentions the “contracted retention, which will, give homebuyers far greater satisfaction at the completion of the purchase” –  in other words early on, just as the 8-week, HBF survey arrives in their post or inbox. Is it really an “unambiguous signal of cultural and operational change at Persimmon, putting customer care at the very centre of the business.” or a calculated measure to improve their HBF 8-week survey scores and 3-star rating? Given Persimmon claims 79% “satisfaction” which is just 1% below the 4 star rating, you would think giving a few £250 John Lewis vouchers to buyers would have been a cheaper option!

A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation told The Times: housebuilders had “delivered consistent improvements in customer satisfaction over the past two years” and he was again not keen on Persimmon’s housebuyer retention saying it “should not be seen as an option for housebuilders generally.”

No doubt with Persimmon now learning how to “play the star rating game” the heavy weighting of their current 3-star rating drag on the overall satisfaction scores over the last 5 years, the overall satisfaction score at least, is certain to improve, even if in reality, the actual new homebuyer satisfaction does not.

This industry’s reinterpretation of defect into snag has been one of the great distortions of the narrative surrounding new homes in recent years. The likes of Persimmon will be more than happy to agree a 1.5% retention – which they are likely never to have any intention of recovering, is cheap when compared to the loss of access to Help To Buy and other possible government sanctions such as a land-banking tax.

A clear indication that Persimmon has got this wrong is their statement:
“we hear the message that we need to continue to raise our game in customer care.” When actually it is the quality of construction and inspection regimes where improvements are required. It is not a case of putting out the fires quicker, but of fire prevention, getting it right first time, or at least before buyers get their keys!

As with Barratt in the eighties, it will take a generation to turn around Persimmon’s reputation, forever historically tarnished by corporate greed, poor quality homes and contempt and indifference to its own customers. Britain’s top site managers won’t want to go there and have their CVs forever tarnished. Those that do, will justifiably demand huge salaries for their sacrifice. In directing attention to the newly moved in and including quality and customer care in site managers’ bonus calculations is a step in the right direction that should improve their HBF survey star rating. It is a recipe that Barratt have adopted with success over nine, 5-star rated years. It is amazing it has taken Persimmon so long to either begin to care about it, or cotton on!

Persimmon Annual Report 2018 27 Feb 2019
Range of new customer service initiatives implemented in late 2018 showing encouraging initial results. The Group is confident these measures will improve its customer satisfaction score once they have had time to take effect”

CEO Dave Jenkinson “A wide range of projects to improve customer satisfaction commenced in late 2018 and the initial results have been encouraging, giving us confidence in our ability to make progress in this important area”

Chairman Roger Devlin: “Alongside that we are changing our pay and incentives to include greater emphasis on both quality and customer care with plans that are more rigorous than we have had in the past.

“Delivering a good quality product for our customers and providing high levels of customer service throughout the home buying process is a top priority for the business. For the year to 30 September 2018, the percentage of our customers who would recommend Persimmon to a friend under the independent Home Builders Federation (HBF) survey was 79%, in line with the prior year and just short of the four star threshold of 80%. The Group has continued to invest in its customer care systems and resources during the year and this will continue to be the case in 2019 as we remain determined to improve customer satisfaction levels.”

But talk is cheap! Persimmon have said it all before!

Persimmon Annual Report 2016 27 Feb 2017
“During 2016 we have continued to invest additional resources in new customer focused initiatives to improve our customers’ buying experience and our NHBC/HBF 3 star rating. This is yielding further improvement in performance with the majority of the Group’s operating businesses showing progress. Prior to customers moving into their new home we have improved our communication processes with them to provide greater understanding of the progress we are making in constructing their new home. We have strengthened our build management processes to facilitate delivery to expected timeframes. Additional support is being provided through reinvigorated processes to demonstrate the features of the new home to customers, assistance with identifying any small remaining issues on moving in day and providing improved systems and processes for our customer care teams to support the prompt rectification of any outstanding matters. Customer care performance is reflected in relevant employees’ remuneration to support a closer alignment to the Group’s objectives. Whilst these initiatives are delivering tangible improvements in our customer satisfaction ratings we remain determined to deliver further advancement this year.“

Persimmon  Annual report 2015 on 22 February 2016.
CEO Jeff Fairburn stated:
“The Group’s priority is to serve our customers well by providing good quality new homes and great service. All of our team are[sic] responsible for delivering high levels of customer satisfaction….Our sales teams across the business are trained to provide excellent levels of service to our customers.”

“During 2015 we invested substantial resources in new customer focused initiatives to improve our customers’ buying experience and our NHBC/HBF 3 star rating. We have introduced dedicated customer liaison managers on our larger sites, improved communication processes with our customers, introduced new processes to strengthen our build programmes and provided additional resources in our customer care teams. These initiatives are showing some early signs of improvement in our customer satisfaction ratings and we will continue to pursue this agenda to secure further progress this year.”

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No Problem With New Home Quality Says HBF Stewart Baseley

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of HBF interview on BBC Radio 4 Today – Saturday 11 February

Stewart Baseley HBFTrue to form the Home Builder’s Federation [HBF] the industry’s PR and lobby group, conducts a perfect whitewash on the facts as their executive chairman Stewart Baseley trots out a well-used, well-rehearsed HBF rhetoric. The two main points the industry is keen to focus on at the moment:
“promoting awareness of increases in output and rebut negative claims on build quality” are well covered. Mission accomplished! Move along there is nothing to see. Money well-spent? The HBF was funded mostly by its house builder members to the tune of £3,037,449 in the year to 31 December 2015.

Questions to Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of HBF
Do you accept there is a problem?
“No I don’t accept there is a problem although clearly there are in some cases that you have highlighted some of those on your report and I totally accept that anybody that’s in a situation where they have got a problem, it’s very serious for them.”

“No problem – some cases”
Fact: As Stewart Baseley knows, the NHBC paid out £90million in warranty claims for remedial works to fix serious defects in 11,000 new homes (an average of £8,181 each) in the 12 months to 31 March 2016. That equates nearly 9% of the 124,720 new homes built in the same period. In the previous year, the NHBC spent £86million on remedial works including £23million on foundations and £32million on superstructures to 11,000 new homes.

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Persimmon counter claim against their buyer for £8,000 for the cost of repairing his house!

Persimmon issue counter claim to recover cost of repairing new house in Sunderland.

Persimmon Homes, rated just three stars by their own customers in the industry’s  “satisfaction survey,” appear go out of their way to be confrontational and intransigent to any customers who take issue with the builder. The phrase “the Customer is always right” isnt even on their radar if this story from the North East Evening Chronicle is anything to go by.

Vince Wareham Persimmon Render Photo

An unhappy Vince Wareham outside his Persimmon new home at Alexander Park in Sunderland.

New homebuyer Vince Wareham told the Chronicle about his shock when he learned Persimmon were taking legal action against him in an £8,000 counter claim, after he decided to take the house builder to court, claiming £2,950 in compensation for remedial works carried out on his new home.

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HBF Survey Shows New Home Satisfaction Levels Are Falling

HBF  Customer Satisfaction Survey Results 2016

The waiting is over. The results are in,  and the winner is……. well pretty much the whole house building industry if you believe the accompanying Home Builders Federation (HBF) editorial headlined “Homeowner satisfaction with new homes remains high.”

The HBF use the same phrases every year, irrespective of the survey results to market new homes. Why else would the HBF list on the front page their “key benefits of new homes” for the last four years, including the claim that “new homes are built to a higher standard than ever before and the customer satisfaction survey results reflect this” – well not over the last three years they don’t! Since 2013, the key satisfaction questions have provided results that show a marked decline from 91% in 2013 to 85% in 2016!HFB Survey Results

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The Consumer Code For Home Builders Is Failing New Homebuyers

PrintClose examination of the 2015 published case studies for Consumer Code for Home Builders Adjudication Scheme (CCHBAS) shows exactly what is wrong with the house building industry. It is now time for a New Homes Ombudsman to independently deal with homebuyers complaints and award justifiable and fair levels of compensation. At present, the maximum new homebuyers can claim using the CCHBAS is £15,000. The maximum compensation for “inconvenience” is just £250 – this being all that was awarded to a quarter (27%) of the successful claimants in 2015.

A total of 47 complaints made by new homebuyers were adjudicated in 2015. Of these, 41 were successful or successful ‘in part’ due to a total of 110 violations over 17 different Code requirements. Only one Code requirement (3.4) was not mentioned in any of the case studies.

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HBF mislead the public with misinformation, spin and ignorance on BBC Radio 4 “You and Yours”

“There are lies damned lies and statistics”…Mark Twain

HBF logo 1A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation (HBF) made some exaggerated, misleading and  untrue statements regarding homebuyers’ satisfaction and protection when interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 “You and Yours” programme on new-build homes aired on 2 March 2016. These merit detailed clarification and rebuttle.

The BBC reporter said that “the house building industry says that only around 1% of complaints are around serious issues, structural faults for example and that generally standards are very high.”  Even if true, it would still indicate that out of the 143,560 new homes built in 2015, “around” 1,435 will have structural faults that cannot be “guaranteed” not to crack, creak, crumble or fall down, requiring major remedial works. Often this means the new homeowner has to move into temporary accommodation as is the case with Evelyn Lallo who has been in ‘temporary’ accommodation since June last year whilst Taylor Wimpey carry out extensive remedial structural work.

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Interview For BBC Radio 4 “You and Yours” On New-Build Homes

BBC Radio 4Broadcast on Wednesday 2 March 12.15pm

Can we start by you telling our listeners a little about yourself?

I worked in construction management for 35 years. Having retired; I now provide help, advice and information for UK new homebuyers through my website brand-newhomes.co.uk. I have been campaigning for better quality new homes for over 10 years and I am currently lobbying Parliament for the introduction of a New Homes Ombudsman.

I’m really interested in the point you make about the rush for house builders to complete before the year-end. Are there certain times of year to avoid completing on a new build?

Yes. Avoid buying any new home that is due to be completed in May or June and November or December. This is the time when most of the plc house builders have their financial year-end or half-year either being best avoided at all costs, especially if the home is not plastered at least five weeks before the anticipated Legal Completion date.

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Why a New Homes Ombudsman is now essential

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…..”

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APPG Inquiry Into Quality Of New Homes

APPG Inquiry Second session: – What we suggested.

Houses of ParliamentThe 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.

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