Independent Review Signals Stronger Protection for New Build Home Buyers
THE CONSUMER CODE FOR HOME BUILDERS will be strengthened to provide more comprehensive protection for new build home buyers following an independent review led by John Bridgeman CBE, former Director General of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
The Independent Review of the Consumer Code for Home Builders will result in the most significant enhancements since the Code was launched in 2010. This includes broadening the scope to include customer pre-inspections, how ‘snagging’ issues are dealt with, and raising the maximum claim limit for complaints.
The Review was commissioned by the Code’s management board as part of its triennial refresh of the Code. It involved liaison with industry and consumer stakeholders, as well as an online survey which was open to all interested parties, including home buyers.
The report concludes the Code is doing a ‘good job’ of protecting consumers and driving improvements in customer service standards. Highlights from the Review include:
The Government-approved Independent Dispute Resolution Scheme which is free for consumers to access.
Full accreditation through the independent Consumer Codes Approval Scheme.
The sanction regime, including the ability to exclude companies from warranty schemes for failure to comply.
Its informative website and government-approved contact centre to aid consumers.
However, the report also outlines the need to address gaps and recommends several enhancements to improve the protection offered. These include:
Aligning different code schemes and simplifying access to complaint advice for consumers (supported by 95% of respondents to the Code Review stakeholder questionnaire).
Raising the maximum financial compensation threshold, as well as the individual amount that can be awarded for distress and inconvenience.
Incorporating new requirements for home builders to improve how snagging issues (non-structural defects identified in the first two years post occupation) are dealt with, tackling some of the most common causes of complaint from new build home buyers.
Broadening the scope of the Code to include shared ownership and strengthening requirements to support vulnerable customers.
Outlawing financial incentives to complete on properties that haven’t yet met warranty standards and requiring any commissions for recommending products and services to be declared.
The Review also makes recommendations for the wider industry and policymakers to consider. These include a cash retention scheme to give consumers extra leverage, as well as an industry compensation fund to underwrite awards made to consumers.
John Bridgeman CBE
John Bridgeman CBE, said: “Buying a new home is one of the most significant purchases we can make which is why proper protection of consumers is essential. My recommendations are designed to deliver enhanced protection, greater levels of financial recompense and a more cohesive approach to customer service and support across the industry.”
Updated Code Launch
Originally due in 2020, this review was delayed due to expectations that the Government may introduce a single statutory code of practice and statutory new homes ombudsman. With this now unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, it has become more important to align existing Codes where this benefits consumers, to minimise confusion.
Noel Hunter OBE
Code Chairman, Noel Hunter OBE, said: “This Review reinforces the importance of robust consumer protection for the buyers of new build homes. The Code’s management board has accepted most of the recommendations and we will shortly be consulting on an updated Code. We will also work with policymakers and the wider industry to support the broader recommendations which sit outside our remit.”
The Code review took place from August 2022, involving a wide range of stakeholders, including consumers and consumer advisory groups, industry bodies, developers, agents, and those involved in the wider home building industry. The recommendations were delivered to the Code’s Management Board in March 2023. The updated Code, incorporating recommendations from the Review, is due to be launched in early autumn, post consultation.
Home builders will be given time to transition to the new arrangements and all homes built prior to the launch of the updated Code will continue to benefit from the existing cover in place at the time of purchase (until two years after occupancy). Updated training and support materials will be provided on the Consumer Code for Home Builders website to explain the new recommendations and protection available.
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