Information for Developers

This page has been developed to provide Developers with additional information about the New Homes Quality Code (the Code) and the New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS) to aid their understanding and readiness preparations.

The New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) appreciates that the new arrangements will provide a challenge for the industry and is committed to working with Developers to enable them to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Registration for the new Code is expected to start in January 2022 and once you complete the Registration process; we will provide you with tools and support to aid your readiness preparations.  This will include access to the following:

  • Logos and branding guidelines
  • A full suite of detailed FAQs
  • Templates of various forms
  • Template letters and paragraphs for the new complaints process
  • Template checklists for the Pre-Completion Inspection

Only once Developers confirm that their preparations are complete and that they are ready to move to the new arrangements will we work with them to activate them as Registered Developers.  Once activated, Developers will be expected to adhere to the requirements of the new Code and the remit of the NHOS, and all reservations taken from that point will be subject to the new arrangements.  All Developers are required to Register by the end of December 2022.

Following the consultation on the draft code, a final version of the Code has been published along with Developer Guidance and a Glossary of Terms.

There is more information on the proposals in the animation and Q and A below.  If you have any other questions, please contact emma.toms@nhqb.org.uk

Please be assured that we will provide all the support and information Developers need to make the required changes. We will keep you updated via these pages and other direct communications as we progress.

Read our latest newsletter

December update from the New Homes Quality Board

We are at a pivotal and exciting point in our journey to put in place a new framework to oversee build quality and customer service for new build homes. Today we are very pleased to be able to share with you a final version of our New Homes Quality Code which is the culmination of some five years work.

Developers FAQ’s

Please see below various questions relating to the NHQB. We have categorised questions into various subject headers for ease.

Fees and other expected costs

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How much will builders be charged for this new scheme?

A key Government requirement of the new arrangements is that access to the New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS) is free to consumers and therefore costs are covered by developers. The fees for individual builders are being  finalised, and there will be two  elements to :

  • Annual registration fee (based on developer turnover for private homes)

Charge for each referral to NHOS

How will the process work for paying charges?

This is yet to be confirmed.  We will provide an update here once this is agreed.

How have the charges/fees been determined?

The fees have been set to cover the operating costs of the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) and the NHOS. Both are not for profit organisations.  We will provide details of the relevant fees once they have been confirmed.

It will be necessary to periodically review the structure for charges/fees.

Do we still have to pay for the existing Codes?

We are in discussions with the existing code bodies as to how the run-off from their codes will be managed and funded.

Any complaints from customers who reserved their new home before the NHQB activation date for their developer, should pursue their complaint through the previous (pre activation) process and body appropriate to their developer.

What standard fee will we have to pay if a customer makes a complaint to the NHOS?

This is still to be finalised.  We expect to be able to publish the full charging structure by January 2022.

If the customer complains to NHOS but the claim isn't upheld, will the developer still be charged?

Yes, the charge for referrals covers the cost of investigations by the NHOS and is chargeable for all referrals.

Documentation Logos and guidelines

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Makes everything closed. 

Will developers have to display both the NHQC logo and the NHOS logo on their marketing material?

Yes. These should be seen as a positive commitment by the developer. We have produced individual NHQC and NHOS logos, as well as a joint version for developers to use where they feel appropriate.

Will the New Homes Quality Code (NHQC) be provided by the NHQB in different formats/languages such that developers can meet the requirements in terms of its provision to all customers?

Yes. The NHQB will be provided it in different formats and languages and these will be available on the website in early 2022.

Developers are going to have to change a lot of their branding and documentation to include the NHQC and NHOS logos - when will these be ready?

These will be provided when developers register with the NHQB.

Can we use existing Consumer Code as well as NHQC logos on websites/documents at the same time?

This could be confusing for customers, so it is recommended that from a developer’s activation date, only the NHQC and NHOS logos are used on customer documentation.  Other logos will no longer apply from that date.

Launch of the Code, Ombudsman and registration

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When will the final version of the NHQC be published?

The Code has now been published and is on the website.

When will the final version of the NHQC be published

The Code has now been published and is on the website.

What will be the process for registering for the NHQC and NHOS?

Developers will initially apply for registration on an online portal and pay the annual registration fee.  There will then be a period before final registration is complete for the Developer to complete their readiness activities, e.g., training, updating complaints procedures, branding, etc.  Once this is finalised, NHQB will work with each developer to confirm readiness is complete and ‘activate’ their registration on a mutually agreed date. 

 

Once a developers’ registration with the NHQB is activated the developer will be required to comply with the NHQC and NHOS for all reservations taken from the activation date. 

When will the NHOS be live and start taking complaints?

The final date is to be confirmed but we expect this to be in Q1 of 2022.

I've heard that registration for the NHQC and activation of the new processes will be a two-step process - what does this mean?

This is correct.  Initially developers will register applications with the NHQB and pay the annual registration fee.  Once their preparations are complete (e.g., training, processes, logos, etc.), they can activate their membership with NHQB. Once activated, customers reserving new homes from that date will be covered by the NHQC and the NHOS.

The NHQC seems to rely on warranty providers and latent defects insurance but some new homes don't have this and use Consultants Certificates. Do developers who use these still have to comply with this NHQC?

Yes, all developers of private new homes will have to register with the NHQB.

How often will the NHQC be reviewed / updated?

The NHQC will be reviewed as required but we do not envisage a formal review of it for at least the two years from launch such that industry can embed it within their businesses.

When will developers be able to apply to register and how will this be done?

We expect developer registration applications to be available from late January 2022 via an online portal.

Will developers have to sign up their whole business or can they phase their launch in specific regions?

Developers can choose whether to activate their whole business or start with one geographical area, regional business or brand.

What criteria will developers have to meet before they can apply to register?

All developers of private new homes are expected to register with the NHQB.

What happens if we don't register by the deadline?

Ultimately, through the Building Safety Bill, Government will have the power to require companies building and selling new homes to be part of an Ombudsman scheme.

When will developers be able to ‘activate’ or launch this coverage to their customers?

When the NHOS has launched and only when a developer has registered and their readiness preparations have been confirmed, they are then able to agree their activation date with NHQB.

What criteria will developer have to meet before they can launch/activate?

Registered developers will need to pay the required fees, demonstrate that their employees have completed the training, that they have processes in place to deliver against the requirements of the NHQC, and that they have updated all marketing materials with the new logos.

The NHBC 8-week survey refers to Consumer Code awareness, when will this change?

We are talking to HBF/NHBC about the impact of the new arrangements on the branding of the survey and the wording of the questions but ultimately the ambition is that the NHQB will support the survey as the current code body does.

How long will we have to get “ready” after registering

Developers can take as long as required to get compliant with the new requirements but we expect that for most, this will be around 4-6 months.

How long will developers have to apply for registration?

The period for registering with NHQB starts in January 2022 and ends on 31st December 2022.  

Which companies have to join, is it just volume developers?

The NHQB will apply to all developers of private for sale new homes.

After-Sales and complaints

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In Section 3, it states that the Customer has the option to categorise any issue as a formal complaint if they are unhappy with the developers approach. Is there any reasonableness required to such categorisation? What is to stop a Customer from categorising all issues as a formal complaint?

The developer should use their documented After-Sales Service /customer charter to clearly explain and specify how a customer should approach any issue e.g., snagging, emergency issues, service issue, etc.

Where a customer refers a complaint to the NHOS, they will be asked to confirm whether they have notified their developer and been through the aftersales process. The code makes clear how ‘snagging’ issues should be dealt with and gives the developer 30 days to address them BEFORE a formal complaint can be made about that specific element.

Does providing the customer with on-line capability from occupation to raise their own snags meet the requirement to provide the opportunity for the customer to carry out a post-occupation check on or within a few days after the Legal Completion date?

Yes. The requirement is that the customer should be enabled to provide a list to their developer in an agreed and acceptable format. Consideration should of course be given to the customers computer skills and the availability of broadband.

Section 3 refers to various standard responses required during the complaints process. Will NHQB be providing standard text for these or will each builder develop their own?

Suggested templates will be provided by the NHQB for inclusion in developers customer communications.

What is the complaint initiation date - the next working day or the day of receipt, even if 9pm on a Friday?

The complaint initiation date (CID) is the first working day after the complaint is received. For example, for complaints received on Monday, the CID is Tuesday and for complaints received on Saturday, the CID is Monday (or in the case of a public holiday, the next working day).

If we miss a milestone in a formal complaint process, can the customer go straight to the NHOS?

Yes, customers can refer their complaint to the NHOS if their developer has failed to achieve any of the requirements of the Code.

A customer has gone to the NHOS without going through our formal complaints process, is this allowed?

Where a customer refers a complaint to the NHOS, they will be asked to confirm whether they have notified their developer and been through the aftersales process.  In the event that they have not been through the formal complaints process then it is likely the NHOS would refer them back to their developer.

The customer is unhappy with our final decision, do we still need to send a closure letter, it will only inflame the situation?

Yes, the requirements of the Code require that developers confirm the final outcome of every complaint with a closure letter. This should provide an opportunity for the developer to set out the details of the case as they see it. It is likely the NHOS will consider this letter as part of their considerations as to whether the case justifies a NHOS investigation so it is in the developers interest to send this letter.

The current complaint process and timings doesn’t account for any complaint escalation, for example some developers have a 3 step formal complaint escalation process, which will impact timescales. Is the expectation that we change to accommodate within the 56 days, or that we remove any escalation in the complaint process?

Developers will need to adapt their internal processes to meet the new requirements.

What happens if the claim goes to the Warranty Provider first, does that come out of the 56 days?

If a customer contacts the Warranty Provider, they should check that the issue has been through the developers process first and refer them back there if not. The first working day after the customer complains to the developer is the start of the complaints process.
If the Warranty Provider’s dispute resolution service is used, it still needs to comply with the 56-day requirement. However, it is likely that the NHOS would want to consider the conclusions of any ongoing investigation by the Warranty Provider, if the reasons for it not being completed within 56 days are valid, before deciding whether to take the case.

How will frequent non valid (vexatious) claims be treated?

The NHOS processes are currently in development and have not yet been finalised.  Once agreed, an update will be published here.

Sales and Marketing

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Developers are required to describe the new home and one of the sections includes “Mobility Adaptations” – is there a definition?

This can be linked to customer vulnerability i.e., where possible/practical the option to personalise a new home to accommodate a wheelchair, a hoist, accessible washing/bathing facilities, etc. should be offered where the property is at a stage where these can be incorporated and costed if necessary. This reflects the principles and spirit of the NHQC by adopting a personal customer-centric approach.

Does a developer need to confirm to customers the year of Building Regulations standards that the home is built to?

We expect developers to provide all requisite information to a customer. The applicable standards should be advised, and this will likely include the relevant year.  Given the spirit and principles of the NHQC a developer should not use a superseded standard as a reason not to apply a subsequently enhanced standard if is practical to do so and beneficial to the customer.

The NHQC requires the developer to ensure that a customer states in writing what spoken statements they are relying on when entering into the Contract of Sale. What happens if there is a dispute with regards to any of the spoken statements?

We would suggest developers avoid spoken agreements as much as is possible and where necessary follow-up anything agreed verbally immediately in writing to create a paper trail (email/text/etc.) which can then be referred to when completing the Contract.

The NHQC states that ‘minor’ changes should be notified to a customer but do not give rise to a right to terminate. How will this be defined?

The NHQC states “Minor changes to the New Home that do not alter the size, appearance or value from that shown to a customer in the Reservation Agreement and Contract of Sale, should be notified to a customer”  

 

There is nothing to stop the developer specifying what they consider a minor change in their Reservation Agreement and therefore the customer is aware, and disputes avoided. 

The NHQC states the developer must provide the customer with a copy of the site plan. We show this during the pre-reservation discussion but they are very large documents and hard to print so we don’t usually provide a physical copy. Does that meet the requirement?

Yes. The important point is to document that the customer has seen the site plan.  A (non-technical) plan, showing the various plots, house types and basic layout of the site could also be included in the sales literature.

If a customer cancels during the 'cooling off' period, and reservation fees must be paid back in full, does this also include other payments such as for extras/upgrades?

This would depend on the timing of the cancellation and whether the developer had actually spent money on procuring materials for the extras/upgrades.  The Reservation agreement should specify how any pre-exchange of contract payments will be dealt with.

Vulnerable customers – will there be a scale of expectation depending on size and scale of business? Will colleagues be expected to be trained / accredited if in a customer facing roles?

It is recommended that as a minimum, developers follow the guidance from Citizens Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) on the treatment of vulnerable customers.

Does this include any prepayments for extras or upgrades?

Yes, the wording; ‘the Contract Deposit; Reservation Fee and any other pre-payments’ clarifies that all payments are to be protected.

With regards to the new definition of a ’complete’ new home – are developers allowed to use temporary services e.g., for drainage if the foul isn’t connected and the developer is pumping out / tankering for a short period?

The complete new home definition in the Code confirms that the new home is complete “if a warranty cover note has been issued and all rooms, spaces and facilities are in a finished condition for the purpose for which they are designed and intended, and the property provides safe entrance and emergency exit routes; with any further work to the home being either;

  1. solely decorative/corrective.
  2. related to shared common areas.
  3. related to transitioning from temporary to permanent utilities and services, in each case which do not affect the owner’s ability to live safely in the property or will not cause significant disruption or inconvenience to rectify or complete.”
We insure contract deposits via the Warranty Provider but this doesn't cover other aspects such as reservation fees and other pre-payments. Does this mean we must have escrow accounts?

To protect consumer deposits and other monies, builders either need to use cover provided by their warranty provider, use a client/escrow account, or some other legal means within their normal business to ensure such funds are repaid where required.

New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS)

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Have you selected the New Homes Ombudsman Service provider yet?

Yes, The Dispute Service Ltd has been selected as the preferred partner and NHQB is now working with them in an ‘innovative partnership (IP)’ arrangement to develop an ombudsman service and set up the procedures required for dealing with customers of new build homes.

How long will we have to provide a defence to a NHOS claim?

Details will be published in the coming months, but developers will of course be provided with the opportunity to provide all their evidence about a particular case.

Can we appeal an NHOS decision?

No, the NHOS decision is final. This is the same for customers.

I've heard NHOS decisions will be made public, where will they be published?

Only on an anonymised basis in an agreed format with the NHQB in terms of its reporting.

How does a customer make an NHOS claim, is there a website?

There will be an online portal and a call centre for NHOS where customers can log the details of their complaint.

What will the process be for a case being passed to us to investigate by the NHOS and what will the timeframes be for us to respond?

The NHOS processes are currently in development and have not yet been finalised.  Once agreed, an update will be published here.

Will the NHOS carry out desktop assessments or visit the customer’s home?

The NHOS processes are currently in development and have not yet been finalised.  Once agreed, an update will be published here.

What type of information will be taken into account and how will we provide any evidence to support the action we’ve taken?

The NHOS processes are currently in development and have not yet been finalised.  Once agreed, an update will be published here.

What type of penalties are likely to be imposed so we can budget for these?

The NHOS processes are currently in development and have not yet been finalised.  Once agreed, an update will be published here.

Can a legal case and a NHOS case run at the same time?

Technically yes, however it seems more likely that customers will exhaust the NHOS process first, before incurring any legal costs.

If a case is with NHOS and customer raises the matter with press etc how will that be handled?

A bit like the question above, it would make sense to exhaust the NHOS process before escalating as this may confuse/prejudice investigations.

Will you be publishing the volume/types of complaints online once the NHOS is live?

The NHQB will start to publish data on complaints etc at a point in the future which is yet to be determined.  It will initially be on an anonymised ‘industry’ basis and will not identify individual companies.

Pre-completion Inspection

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What kind of pre-completion inspection can the customer carry out?

In addition to the ‘home visit’ that most developers already provide pre-occupation, the NHQC will allow for customers to have a pre-completion inspection carried out on their property by an suitably qualified inspector.  A template inspection checklist has been developed by a working group led by the RPSA and RICS that will be made available in the coming weeks on this web site. The template is a checklist that allows for a full ‘finishing’ check to be done on the new home and that basic elements such as lights, taps etc are working.  Allowing a suitably qualified inspector to carry out this agreed template inspection meets the requirements of the NHQC.

Who pays for the pre-completion inspections?

The NHQC states that the customer has the option to have a pre-completion inspection carried out. If they choose to do so it is at the customer’s expense.

What will happen if there are not enough inspectors when NHQC launches?

Given the current volume of property valuers/surveyors it is not anticipated that there will be a shortage of inspectors. Many developers currently already allow for customers to carry out a pre-completion inspection.

Will there be a central register of people or companies able to undertake pre-completion inspections?

Ultimately this is something the NHQB may consider but it will not be available in the short term.  Guidance will be provided to help the customer and their developer agree on what constitutes a suitably qualified inspector.

What if a customer wants to appoint a snagging company who does not meet the criteria for undertaking pre-completion inspections?

When inviting customers to undertake a pre-completion inspection, developers will need to confirm that this can only be done by a suitably qualified professional who can demonstrate membership of a body such as RICS, RPSA, etc

If the developer feels, and can justify that in their opinion, the inspector is not suitably qualified they can refuse them entry and should work with the customer to identity and agree an alternative inspector.

Is there a standard fee for pre-completion inspections or will inspectors/surveyors set their own charge?

Surveyors or inspectors will set their own fees and agree this with the customer.

Do we need our own forms to record a pre-completion inspection or will this be provided by the inspector?

Developers should record that a customer has been given the opportunity for a pre-completion inspection.

A standard template for the pre-completion inspection will be provided on the NHQB website for use by all surveyors/inspectors but developers may also create their own digital or paper version of the standard checklist that works within their systems and procedures

Who can accompany the suitably qualified inspector during the inspection?

At this point, the home is still owned by the Developer so they can decide whether a Site Manager or other role should accompany the inspection.

Can the pre-completion inspection delay legal completion if there are outstanding works?

As this is an inspection of the finishing standards of the new home, it is not meant to delay completion as any items identified should be of a minor, aesthetic nature rather than a significant defect

Who can carry out the pre-completion inspection?

The NHQC specifies that the pre-completion inspection needs to be carried out by a suitably qualified inspector. It is expected that ‘suitably qualified would include those who are members of a recognised professional body (e.g., RICS, RPSA), or have relevant surveying / construction qualifications. The NHQB will ultimately be working with stakeholders to agree the accreditation requirements for an inspector. In the meantime, developers will be able to determine  what constitutes ‘suitably qualified and work with their customers to agree who carries out the inspection.

NHQB and training

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Will NHQB be auditing Sales Centres etc as the Consumer Code for Home Builders does currently?

Yes – in a similar way to how the existing Codes manage this.

If we have questions or feedback during the transition, how do we approach NHQB?

In the first instance, please direct any questions to Emma Toms (emma.toms@nhqb.org.uk).

Will the NHQB be providing staff training in the same way that the existing Consumer Codes do?

Yes. Detailed training aids are being developed and will be made available to developers once they have completed their application to register. The training includes assessment modules for different job roles including sales staff and those providing after sales services.

Which staff will need to undertake training?

The training has been developed to provide guidance for all customer facing employees (e.g., Sales, Site Managers, Customer Care, etc) but is also useful for the wider business to understand how the new requirements impact them.

How long is training likely to take to complete?

The NHQC eLearning module will take around one hour in total, however it’s possible for delegates to pause the module and return to the same point at a later date if they are unable to complete it all in one sitting.

Will the training cover all requirements of the NHQC or will we also need to develop our own training?

The training module will cover the main requirements of the NHQC and should be backed up by providing copies of the NHQC itself.  Developers may choose to do additional training which is tailored more specifically to their individual procedures.

Will the NHQB training be only for customer facing staff or will it cover other functions such as Land and Technical?

The training module is the same for all employees, but the assessment test will differ according to whether the employee is in a customer-facing role or another (non-customer-facing) department.

What training material is going to be provided and when will we receive that?

NHQB will be providing an eLearning training module which is suitable for all employees and will have different assessments depending on the job role.  Access to the training will be provided to developers on application for registration and must be completed for all customer facing employees before the developer can activate (launch) the scheme.

Will NHQB be doing any advertising to raise consumer awareness of the new NHQC and NHOS?

Yes, it is envisaged that the profile of the NHQB and the NHOS will grow over the coming months – which should be seen as a positive by the industry in terms of consumer confidence – and the NHQB will use this platform to promote the benefits of the new arrangements.

Will case studies be made available for developers to learn from?

Yes, once the NHQC has been in place for some time, any learnings will be shared with the industry to improve the application and/or efficiency of meeting the Code requirements.