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BSRIA provides expert evidence to All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry about a New Homes OmbudsmanFebruary 2018

BSRIA was pleased to be invited to discuss its written response to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Excellence in the Built Environment (APPGEBE) at an Inquiry at the House of Commons. The subject of the discussion was one of the recommendations in APPGEBE’s 2016 report 'More homes, fewer compliants', namely that there should be a New Homes Ombudsman to safeguard home owners who face quality issues with their new homes.

BSRIA actively supports improved quality in new homes through various services and we believe better quality will benefit both the consumer and the construction sector. The main direction of our response can be summarised as “prevention is better than cure”. Within our written response we proposed measures to lock in quality more strongly during the construction process and before the point of purchase. We also commented on the role of a New Homes Ombudsman within the context of consumer protection, the role of insurance and warranty products, opportunities, legal challenges and potential market impact.

BSRIA was represented at the APPGEBE Committee by Lynne Ceeney, BSRIA Technical Director and Tassos Kougionis, Principal Consultant – Residential, main author of our response.

Tassos said:

“We are pleased to have been asked to contribute to APPGEBE’s Inquiry into a potential New Homes Ombudsman. Efficient and transparent rectification and redress processes are a key part of consumer protection, however, we see more benefit in reducing consumer risk before the sale and occupation of the home. We need to ensure that the right problem prevention measures are in place prior to sale to reduce the number of complaints, as well as ensuring that the right processes/systems are in place to address those complaints efficiently and effectively.

BSRIA made the point that a complicated, consumer-hostile, legal landscape is not helpful to a householder and that any measures introduced should not penalise the whole housebuilding industry, as many housebuilders do a good job. Quality sits alongside efficiency and should be of benefit to housebuilder as well as homeowner.

Part of the BSRIA response was the proposal for a legally binding New Homes Quality framework, supported by a Competent Person Scheme. This would assist in safeguarding new homes quality prior to purchase. Such an approach would work hand in hand with a New Homes Ombudsman service or similar redress process. We discussed the benefits of such a scheme with the Committee of Inquiry and how it could be set up.

We found it constructive and productive to discuss our contributions with the Members of the APPGEBE and fellow respondents the Home Builders Federation and the Home Owners Alliance.”

The inquiry follows the main recommendation of the 2016 report, 'More homes, fewer complaints' Recommendation 1: DCLG should initiate steps to set up a New Homes Ombudsman. As highlighted in the report, evidence suggests that there are issues around the quality of new homes which lead to consumer complaints. Most complaints refer to finishes and defects not covered by most insurance products and do not violate compliance with Building Regulations.

The National new home customer satisfaction survey from HBF (Home Builders Federation) found that 79 per cent of new home buyers said that they were satisfied with the service provided during the buying process; 82 per cent said they were happy with the handover process with 82 per cent satisfied with the information provided by their builder on the day they moved in. In terms of the design of their new home, 92 per cent of buyers were happy with the internal design of their new home and 86 per cent were happy with the external design. 98 per cent of the buyer reported defects and “snags” to their House Builder after they moved in the property.

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