Move is a first step towards the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman scheme
Natalie Elphicke MP has been announced as the interim chair of the interim New Homes Quality Board, a new independent body that will have responsibility for the quality of new build homes and consumer redress.
The interim board, consisting of representatives from across the sector has ‘met’ for the first time and will now;
- oversee the composition and appointment of a permanent board;
- the completion, consultation on and adoption of a new comprehensive and robust industry code of practice that will place more stringent requirements on all parties involved in the construction, inspection, sale and aftercare of new homes;
- agree a process to appoint a New Homes Ombudsman service to adjudicate against the new code.
The New Homes Quality Board will be guided by the principles of independence, transparency and integrity and will contain a mix of representatives of consumer bodies, housebuilders, warranty providers, lenders and independents such that it will not be dominated by any one group.
Government has made quite clear that it expects the house building industry to implement comprehensive new measures to ensure further improvements and consistency in the quality of new homes, better customer service and strengthened consumer redress as a matter of urgency. The industry fully supports this and today’s announcement demonstrates its commitment to delivering a step change in how it operates and deals with customers.
Since the publication of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment report ‘More homes, fewer complaints’ in 2016 (and the subsequent ‘Better redress for home buyers’ report in 2018) the industry has been working with a broad range of stakeholders on the complex arrangements to enable the development of a framework that will include the creation of an ombudsman service – in line with Government requirements and commitments.
Natalie Elphicke was appointed as the independent ‘New Homes Quality Champion’ last summer with a view to progressing arrangements to the point where they can be ‘operationalised’. Since her election to Parliament she he has continued to oversee the development of proposals and the appointment of the interim board.
The ambition is that a permanent chair and board will be in place by Autumn with a view to the new code and ombudsman service being in place by the start of 2021. There will then be a transition period for builders to sign up to the new arrangements. It is anticipated Government will ultimately legislate to improve consumer redress as soon as possible and these new proposals aim to complement Government reforms.
Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP said: “Building the homes we need is central to the mission of this Government, which is why we have safely reopened the housing market. As construction resumes, I am determined to see the building of high-quality homes at the heart of this process.
“I welcome Natalie Elphicke MP’s appointment as interim chair of the New Homes Quality Board. The board’s broad wealth of experience will drive improvements in the sector, ensuring high-quality new homes and better protection for homebuyers.”
Natalie Elphicke said; ‘This is a welcome move, and a much needed step in the right direction. I am committed to ensuring that the new arrangements will deliver a step change in the quality of new homes and customer experience. They will be based in the principles of independence, transparency and integrity, values I know this Government, and the industry, are determined to instil. I look forward to working with all parties to finalise and implement these changes as quickly as possible.”
Speaking today, Stewart Baseley, executive chairman at HBF said; “This is the next step in what has been a long and strenuous journey involving a broad range of stakeholders. The move demonstrates the commitment of the industry to providing buyers with absolute confidence in their builder and the quality of their new home. The new body will help ensure that the steady improvement in the quality of new build homes we have seen in recent years continues. Customers will be reassured that in the instances where they do have issues with their new home, they will have recourse to a fast, effective independent dispute resolution service via an ombudsman. The new robust arrangements will provide a huge challenge for builders but the industry fully recognises the need to deliver, and we will.”
Nicola Barclay, Chief Executive of Homes for Scotland, said: “We are delighted to see this progression, which reinforces our determination to ensure a high-quality home for each and every purchaser. We are also pleased that the stringent requirements will see consumers receive the same level of clarity and consistency wherever they live across the UK.
The interim board will be responsible for developing a process by which a NHO is appointed, in line with Government expectations as set out in their response to the consultation carried out last year. It will engage with the Ombudsman Association during this process to ensure that the proposals meet their best practice criteria of Independence, Fairness, Effectiveness, Openness & Transparency, and Accountability.
Then interim board will also be expected to develop a reporting system that will measure the performance of the industry against the new code. It is anticipated that under the main board will sit consumer, warranty and builder committees and a code board with responsibility for reviewing and updating the code, at the direction of the main board
All the new arrangements will be paid for by the industry and once established, the NHO will be free to consumers, with access being through a new portal.
The new code, committed to ensuring the fair treatment of customers, aims to plug the gaps identified in a report by WPI Economics, who were commissioned by HBF in 2017 to undertake a review of the whole new homes redress process. It will cover all aspects of the construction, inspection and sales process and place requirements on all parties involved. The code will include;
- A requirement for builders to provide more detailed information to customers during the sales process.
- A tightened up final sign off process to ensure the home is ‘complete’ before mortgage money is released
- A responsibility for builders to deal with any snagging issues within a set time in years 1 and 2 of occupation
Formation of the Interim Board
The Interim Board is the first step in the creation of the independent New Homes Quality Board. It comprises of representatives from across the sector and is made up as follows:
- Jackie Bennett- UK Finance
- Joanne Casey – Mactaggart and Mickel (medium sized builder)
- Gillian Cooper – Citizens Advice
- Douglas Cochrane – Independent
- Barry Cummins – Homes England
- Jennie Daly – Taylor Wimpey (large PLC builder)
- Natalie Elphicke – MP (independent chair)
- Katy Jordan- Storey Homes (small builder)
- Paul Smee – Conveyancers Association
- Nicholas Boys-Smith – Create Streets
- Steve Wood – NHBC (UK’s largest new homes warranty provider)
Quotes from interim board members
Joanne Casey, Mactaggart & Mickel Director, said:
“As a family-owned company with a history of housebuilding dating back to 1925, ensuring customers are happy with our homes is at the heart of what we do. The industry’s reputation for quality has never been more important than it is today. We welcome the national commitment to this and look forward to supporting the shadow board’s drive to champion customer satisfaction.”
Barry Cummins, National Development Director, Homes England said:
“Ensuring that new homes are designed and built to a high quality standard is a vital part of Homes England’s commitment to placemaking so we create communities where people really want to live and work. I am delighted to be involved in this new board which will harness the voice of the customer to ensure the sector maintains high standards and is ambitious to improve the quality of new housing.”
Jennie Daly, group operations director at Taylor Wimpey said;
“I am delighted to have joined the Interim New Homes Quality Board as it works to ensure that quality, exceptional customer service and building beautiful homes remain a priority for housebuilders across the sector. These goals are aligned with Taylor Wimpey’s customer-focused strategy and I look forward to extending this commitment in my new role. Establishing the governance and appointment of the permanent board, alongside the appointment of the New Homes Ombudsman, will be an important milestone for the industry and I am confident that the leadership team will draw upon its extensive expertise to rise to this challenge.”
Katy Jordan, managing director at Storey Homes said;
“I am delighted to be involved in working to establish a New Homes Quality Board and ultimately a New Homes Ombudsman. I am particularly pleased to be asked to represent SMEs in the important work being undertaken and I am looking forward to playing an integral role in improving build quality and customer service across the house building industry.”
Nicholas Boys-Smith – Create Streets said;
“The quality of where we live really matters for our physical and mental health. We need to create better homes and better places and I am delighted to be helping the New Homes Quality Board in this important work.”
Steve Wood, CEO of NHBC said; “NHBC is a committed supporter of a New Homes Ombudsman, which will help us all to raise standards and quality for homeowners. I am delighted to have joined the Shadow New Homes Quality Board and look forward to contributing to the important work before us.”
- ENDS –
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Notes to editors
- The Home Builders Federation (HBF) is the representative body of the home building industry in England and Wales. The HBF’s member firms account for some 80% of all new homes built in England and Wales in any one year, and include companies of all sizes, ranging from multi-national, household names through regionally based businesses to small local companies: hbf.co.uk
- Homes for Scotland represents 200 companies which together provide the vast majority of all new homes built across the country. Our wish is that everyone can unite around our primary purpose: to deliver more homes for Scotland. Visit homesforscotland.com for further information or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/H_F_S.
- Natalie’s background is as a national specialist in complex housing and structured finance law and public policy. A former international law firm partner with over £4billion transactional experience, she had been described as “probably the best in the City” in her specialist area of housing. She has extensive experience structuring and successfully setting up new organisations in her professional capacities, working with a diverse range of stakeholders. This includes most recently at the Housing & Finance Institute. She has a strong reputation as an independent commentator on housing matters ranging from housing policies to building new homes faster as well as in relation to the quality and safety of new build construction.
Natalie is a member of the Jaywick Sands coastal community team and a member of the NHBC advisory panel. She is a voluntary worker at her local homeless shelter, having previously volunteered at free legal/advice centres over many years.
Natalie Elphicke is a qualified barrister and solicitor. In 2015 she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her services to housing.
In December 2019, Natalie was elected as a Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal. She is a PPS in the Ministry of Defence.
- Jackie Bennett OBE joined UK Finance in February 2018. As Director of Mortgages she has overall responsibility for delivering the mortgage policy work of UK Finance, including the Covid-related response. Jackie has 20 years of mortgage industry experience. Between 2001 and 2014 Jackie worked at Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), one of the bodies integrated into UK Finance in July 2017. She was Head of Policy at CML for 10 years, delivering on a number of key initiatives related to mortgage regulation and vulnerable customers. Immediately prior to joining UK Finance, Jackie worked for two different mortgage lenders in senior compliance roles. She also served as Deputy Manager for property and household at Association of British Insurers (ABI), having spent her early career working in a variety of police and criminal policy roles at the Home Office. She was awarded an OBE for services to the financial services industry in the Queen’s birthday honours list in June 2010.
- Joanne Casey is Director at Mactaggart & Mickel and Managing Director of their Homes England division. Her remit covers sales, marketing and architectural design. Joanne is an Honorary Vice-President of the Institute of Customer Service, a member of the Board of Homes for Scotland and Chair of Business Beats Cancer (Glasgow) for Cancer Research UK.
- Nicholas Boys Smith is the founding Director of Create Streets, an independent research institute that encourages and supports the creation of more and better homes in gentle density mixed use “gentle density” places rather than complex multi-storey buildings or drive to cul-de-sacs. Many of Create Streets’ ideas are now being embedded in national and local planning policy.Nicholas was co-chair of the Government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission whose final report, Living with Beauty, has been widely praised and was described by the Secretary of State for Housing and Communities as “seminal” and “one of the most important reports for a number of years.” He is also a Commissioner of Historic England, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham and was a judge of the 2016 and 2018 Sunday Times British Home Awards. Nicholas has written extensively on development, planning and the links between design, wellbeing, value, sustainability and public support as well as leading or supporting many urban design and community co-design projects.
- Katy Jordan’s background as a Quantity Surveyor was the platform for her career in housebuilding. Katy has gained invaluable first-hand knowledge of every aspect of development – principally construction, planning, land and finance. Katy began her career in a PLC, rising to board level at Countryside Properties. She has also worked for SMEs and as an independent consultant developing and implementing change strategies for contractors and developers to improve performance and profitability. Katy joined Storey Homes in 2015 as Managing Director. Storey Homes is a privately owned property developer based in Milton Keynes committed to building communities across the Northern Home Counties.
- Paul Smee is Chair of the Conveyancing Association. He is also on the Board of the Social Housing Regulator. He used to be Director General of the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
- Steve Wood joined NHBC in July 2017 having previously been the CEO of Paymentshield (part of Towergate Insurance) and UK Managing Director at Ecclesiastical Insurance. Prior to that he was Managing Director at FirstAssist Group and held senior positions at RSA Group plc and Royal Insurance. Steve has a BSc (Hons) in Mathematics and is a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute.