On 27 June 2019 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government launched a consultation seeking views on the introduction of a new Housing Complaints Resolution Service and a New Homes Ombudsman. This is intended to provide better redress for purchasers of new build homes.

This consultation follows on from the Government’s consultation on improving the position of consumers in the housing market last year and has been launched against the backdrop of the commitment made by the Government in October 2018 to deliver 300,000 new homes per year by mid-2020, to support homebuyers, build more homes, improve building safety and to create a legacy for the Commonwealth Games which will be held in 2022 in Birmingham.

One of the issues that the Government has previously identified is that purchasers of new homes cannot assess the quality of their home at the point of purchase and that some complaints have a tendency to drift on considerably without resolution. Further, insurance-backed warranty schemes (such as the NHBC) are sometimes difficult for consumers to access and do not always provide timely or effective redress.

The Government’s stated aims include improved levels of satisfaction for consumers, in order to enhance the public perception of developments and new build homes. This involves the introduction of safeguards so that everyone, including owners and tenants, know where they may seek help if, or when, things go wrong. In addition, previous Government consultations have concluded that there is typically a high level of compliance with decisions of Ombudsmen operating in other parts of the housing market and their decisions are often implemented quickly.

The consultation will consider a wide range of relevant issues, including:

* The role of the proposed New Homes Ombudsman

* The requirement for developers who sell new build homes direct to consumers, to belong to a New Homes Ombudsman (and enforcement where developers do not sign up)

* The standards that a New Homes Ombudsman would adjudicate against, including whether any new Code of Practice should be underpinned by legislation, and the expectations of both purchasers and developers

* The number of Ombudsmen

* Should a public sector body be responsible for delivering a New Homes Ombudsman

* How the Ombudsman should be funded

* What powers and sanctions should be available to the New Homes Ombudsman

* Geographical scope – the Government’s view is that the scheme should apply across the UK.

This consultation will be of interest to anyone involved in the new build housing sector. But responses will need to be input quickly, as the closing date for submissions is 22 August 2019.

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