Like many other industries, house building in the UK has not been immune to the pandemic and has faced many challenges over the last year. That said, in the face of unrelenting demand for new build homes, the industry has shown a steely resilience and, when permitted, construction has continued across various development sites. Equally, the pandemic has also been a time for reflection and has allowed this growing industry an opportunity to re-evaluate not only the way in which it operates and interacts with its consumers but also to consider current quality and standard of services offered by it.
With this in mind, a new independent body known as the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) has recently been set up to tackle and resolve issues of sub-standard quality and services across the housebuilding industry and to also encourage better client relations through applying the basic principles of independence, transparency and integrity. For consistency purposes, the NHQB is made up of a cross-section of individuals from various well-known housebuilders and other associated organisations such as NHBC.
To achieve its objectives, the NHQB is in the process of creating a New Homes Code (NHC), the draft of which has just been published ahead of a four week consultation process which commenced on 9th June 2021 and which will run to 7th July 2021. In addition to the NHC, the NHQB is also in the process of establishing a New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS). It is hoped that the NHC will be finalised by July 2021 and the NHOS will be up and running by the end of September 2021.
- New Homes Code - by introducing this new code of practice across the industry (from construction through to the sales of the completed homes), it is hoped that this will ensure that higher standards are consistently met by housebuilders and developers across the board, leading to greater consumer satisfaction. NHC will aim to protect consumers' interests from the start of the sales and marketing process right through to the end of the second year of ownership.
- New Homes Ombudsman Service - this service will aim to provide all new build consumers with an appropriate channel through which they can address their grievances and resolve any disputes - whether that is in relation to the quality of the build itself or regarding the general level of service afforded by the relevant housebuilder. It will also regulate any non-compliance by a housebuilder or developer with the NHC. Although details are still to be finalised, it is intended that this service will be self-funded by the industry and so access to it will be free for all consumers.
The NHQB will play a key role in implementing these two new measures and it will be responsible thereafter for monitoring the operation of the NHOS as well as reporting to the industry on the success of such measures. It will also act as an advisory board for the industry in general where queries may arise in relation to the terms and compliance with both the NHC and the NHOS.
Once in place there will be a transition period in which all housebuilders and developers in the UK need to register with the NHOS and thereafter adopt the rules of the NHC as part of their everyday business practice.