BSRIA has responded to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Excellence in the Built Environment report: Commission of Inquiry into the Quality of New Built Housing in England – which looked at the Quality of New Build Housing in England and examined the potential for improving every aspect of the product handed over to new home-owners. The key finding was that MPs have called for a New Homes Ombudsman to help drive up housebuilding quality and customer service.
This is one 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 problems fixed. A cross-party committee of MPs and construction experts is now calling on government to take action.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment (APPGEBE), in its report More homes, fewer complaints, launched on 13th July 2016, 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.
Julia Evans, Chief Executive, BSRIA, said: “Government is intent on seeing the construction of one million new homes within the course of this Parliament, but increasing the quantity of new homes must not be achieved at the expense of their quality. A New Homes Ombudsman would kick-start this process.
It is clear that there is a quality gap between customer expectations and industry delivery. Closing this performance gap will only happen if housebuilders make a concerted effort to create a more consumer-focused culture. Builders providing buyers with a comprehensive information pack to improve design, building and inspection process transparency is key.
Naturally, consumers want to see an improved quality of build and homes that are fit for purpose. When something is wrong, consumers want an affordable and accessible means of putting it right. With a newly-formed government – the time is ripe to be making such industry crucial requests.”
- Department for Communities and Local Government (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.
- Housebuilding sales contracts should be standardised. This would remove much of the uncertainty that presently arises from the bespoke nature of each builder’s sales contract, which can deter so many from pursuing claims.
- Buyers should have the right to inspect properties before completion. Such a provision would discourage builders from serving notices to complete prematurely, or concealing major defects until after they have received the full purchase price, and would also encourage better quality control and site management pre-completion.
- Builders should be required to provide buyers with a comprehensive information pack – the aim being to improve transparency of the design, building and inspection process. The pack should contain information including, designs and plans, specifications and details about both warranty and building control inspections, when carried out and by whom.
- DCLG should commission a thorough review of warranties. At present warranty providers offer varying levels of cover and consumer protection. Evidence suggested that warranties on new homes did not match the expectations of the consumer and our suggestion is that they need to be reviewed.
- The industry should significantly increase skills training programmes. A greater emphasis should be placed on training and investment for both new and existing workers to embed a quality culture while also bringing new people into the sector.
- A minimum standard should be set for compliance inspections. There is concern that competition in building control might be fuelling a race to the bottom and we are therefore recommending there should be a defined minimum number of inspections that local authority building control and approved inspectors in the private sector should not fall below.
- Housebuilders should make the annual customer satisfaction survey more independent to boost customer confidence. The survey should be more independent of the NHBC and the HBF – bringing in a high profile third party to conduct and take ownership of the research in their name.
More information about the Group, the Committee and the Inquiry can be found on Inquiry into the quality of new build housing in England
The APPG called upon organisations, businesses and individuals to submit evidence.