In February 2016, the government asked the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) to look at the labour model within the construction industry and the pressures on skills and other constraints that limit housebuilding and infrastructure development in the UK. The CLC commissioned Mark Farmer to undertake a review and his report, The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model was published on 17 October 2016.
The independent Farmer Review, commissioned by two Government departments, highlights construction’s dysfunctional training model, its lack of innovation and collaboration as well as its non-existent research and development (R&D) culture. Farmer says the construction sector must “modernise or die” and faces “inexorable decline” unless radical steps are taken to address its longstanding problems.
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.”
Since 2006, Part L of the Building Regulations – The Conservation of Fuel and Power in England and Wales – has required mandatory air leakage testing of new buildings including homes. These regulations were further revised in 2010. But this does not mean every new home will be subject to an air leakage test to comply even under the latest 2010 Part L.
What is air leakage testing?
Air leakage testing basically checks that a new home is air tight and will not let in draughts or provide a route for heat to escape through gaps in the structure. After sealing up all required vents to windows and extractors, air is then drawn out of the home via a large fan in an external doorway, with the pressure monitored for a set period of time to produce a measurement of the amount of air that leaks back into the home being tested.
So you would think that since 2010, all new homes would be relatively air tight, free of draughts and cheap to heat as a result?
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.”
“The council do not adopt new housing estates anymore”
Private roads (as defined by Sections 203 to 237 (Part XI) of the Highways Act 1980) are a highway not maintainable at public expense. The local highway authority is therefore under no obligation to pay for its maintenance. Responsibility for the cost of maintaining a private road rests with the frontages – the owners of properties with frontages on such roads.
Bovis development – Homes finished but not the road!
It is now becoming increasingly common on new housing developments that roads and other public areas are not being taken over and adopted by Local Authorities. With the roads and landscaping areas remaining private ownership, all new-build homebuyers on these developments are legally responsible for their maintenance, repair and insurance, paid for via years of ongoing, potentially ever increasing, annual management charges.
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.