Spring 2023 update from the New Homes Quality Board
A message from the NHQB…
Welcome to the first New Homes Quality Board newsletter of the year, and what a year we have had. With thanks to all of the developers and stakeholders who have supported us each step of the way, we’ve had an exceptional year. While we are still in our early days, reflecting on how far we have come is useful to drive momentum for the future.
In the past year, we saw successful NHQB launches in Westminster, Wales, and Scotland, with ongoing plans to reach Northern Ireland and evolve our Code further. We’ve welcomed new members, strengthened partnerships, and later this year, we will undertake a review of the Code to ensure it offers the best level of consumer protection in the housebuilding sector.
While it is encouraging to reflect on the successful year we have had, it cannot go unmentioned the economic environment impacting our industry. As expected, house building is the first to take a hit. When people find themselves in tight situations with the rising cost of energy, the apprehension to commit to a new home can feel understandable.
However, we would like to take a moment to consider some of the economic and social benefits of buying a new-build home. In support of the Home Builders Federation’s ‘Make your Move’ campaign for New Homes Week, we would like to draw attention back to why so many people each year choose to buy new builds.
Laying the groundwork for improving the future of new homes is something that developers excel in and rightfully so. Growing regulations from the government mean every new home built by developers must meet the top levels of efficiency in energy and costs. When you buy a newly built home, you can expect to; save money on your energy costs, be provided with unprecedented levels of care, and witness a heightened drive for enriching local communities in social and environmental aspects.
HBF’s ‘Make your Move’ campaign is a brilliant source for reigniting the purpose of why new builds are an excellent choice for customers, and we are looking forward to championing quality new homes further in the year to come.
Update on the progress of developer applications and activations
Since the last newsletter, around 30 more developers have applied to register with NHQB and are now in the transition process, completing their readiness arrangements before going live later this year. This brings us close to 200 developers onboard including some of the very largest housebuilding organisations in the UK, as well as a range of ‘mid-caps’ and over 100 SMEs.
Once they have activated their registration, this will cover between 70-80% of the new build homes market in England, Scotland, and Wales. Given that registration remains voluntary for now, this is a huge testament to the commitment of Developers who are choosing to work within the new Code and provide enhanced protection for their customers.
Activation takes place on the first Tuesday of every month and those who have activated and are operating under the new Code are listed as ‘active’ on the Register of Developers.
If you are interested to find out more about registering with NHQB and understanding what help is available to support your business, please contact our team on [email protected]
We have completed the first step in CTSI’s Consumer Code Approval Scheme
The New Homes Quality Code has been granted Stage 1 in the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s (CTSI) Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS).
We are thrilled to be accepted into the scheme as this confirms our commitment to improving service standards in the housebuilding sector. Having achieved the first stage, the NHQB is now working hard to achieve Stage 2 approval and become a fully accredited Code of Practice.
Minor amends to the New Homes Quality Code
Many of you will be aware that following the launch of the new Code, we made some minor amends to the wording in order to achieve Stage 1 Accreditation with the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme.
Since then, we have asked the Plain English Campaign to review the Code again and there have been some further, very minor changes to ensure that it remains clear and easily understood.
This work is complete and they have re-awarded the Crystal Mark to the Code document. The Crystal Mark is a seal of approval for the clarity of a document. It now appears on over 24,000 different documents in the UK and in other countries and is the only internationally-recognised mark of its kind.
None of the changes that were made are substantive or change the requirements of the Code. If you would like details of the precise changes, please email [email protected] for a red-line version of the document. There is no intention to make any further amends prior to the first official review of the Code which is scheduled for no earlier than October 2023.
The latest Code document are published on our website and we are in the process of updating the Welsh language version.
Developer Audits: Coming Soon
As we draw closer to the first developers renewing their registration with us, we are introducing a Developer Audit process that will measure compliance with the Code.
The Audit process will start with a desktop questionnaire which developers will have 30 days to complete. This will provide an objective review of compliance with the Code, and most importantly provide time to address any areas for improvement before renewal.
The Developer Audit process will assess several of the requirements of the Code including, but not limited to, Ombudsman outcomes, complaint trends, and customer satisfaction levels.
We expect this to facilitate and maintain the open and transparent relationship we’re proud to have with registered developers. Customers and stakeholders will also be able to take reassurance from the Audit, confirming developers are meeting the requirements and offering the best service to their customers.
How can complying with the Code save money and drive efficiency?
Compliance with the New Homes Quality Code (NHQC) not only promotes fairness in the housing market, but also saves money and improves efficiency for customers and developers.
The principles set out in our Code promote the best practices in the housebuilding sector and ensure that all homes are built to the same high-quality standards, regardless of the developer or location.
The NHQC sets out a series of requirements and guidelines that our developers must follow, including commitments to training, increasing transparency, and improving construction practices.
By following our Code’s requirements, the standards help to ensure that developers are completely trained-up and they are using the most effective construction methods to date, avoiding costly mistakes and improving their productivity.
In conclusion, reducing the costs of defects leads to increased profitability, and ultimately helps customers trust that their home is built to the highest quality. This, in turn, creates a more equitable society and a more reliable housing market.
New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS)
The New Homes Ombudsman has been operational for five months and is already receiving hundreds of contacts each month from consumers with questions about their new home or their developer. The NHOS offers an initial triage service to check that valid complaints relate to issues within the remit of the Code and only took place after the relevant developer was registered with NHQB.
Thus far there have been no valid complaints received so the triage team has focused on listening to customers’ issues and providing guidance on where best to direct their concerns.
Given that the first organisations activated their registration for reservations from October 2022, and that developers are required to manage any issues or complaints ‘in-house’ before a customer escalates to the NHOS, it is most likely that the first valid complaints will be received in late spring 2023.
There will be a great deal of interest in the first valid complaints that go through the NHOS. As part of our commitment to championing quality new homes and better consumer outcomes, anonymised case studies will be published on our website to provide developers with lessons learned on the NHOS process itself, as well as issues raised and resolutions. Although each case is assessed by the Ombudsman on its own merits, these case studies will provide valuable insight for developers on how complaints are dealt with.
On 25 Jan 2023 and with immediate effect, the New Homes Quality Board changed its bank details.
All payments moving forward should be made to the new bank account provided by Lloyds Bank. If you have recently processed a payment to our previous Metro bank, the receipt will be automatically forwarded to our new Lloyds bank account as part of the Switch Guarantee.
All registered developers have been contacted via email with the new bank details update.
If you have any questions or would like to verify the details, please contact our Finance Manager at [email protected] or call on 07933 181907.
As part of our colleague training, the NHQB team are going ‘behind the scenes’ and will be making an on-site visit to the Taylor Wimpey development in Cambourne during March. The team are looking forward to learning more about modern, sustainable building methods, the house-buying experience, and the engineering that goes into the building of quality new homes.
We will be hearing from the professionals, gaining a better understanding of the industry and a crucial insight into the more technical and practical areas of the housebuilding sector. With the challenges developers and customers face today, this will be essential and valuable training for our NHQB colleagues.
Thank you, Taylor Wimpey, for this kind invitation. The team are looking forward to meeting the various site teams, and wearing a hard hat for the day! Look out for a further update on the visit in our next newsletter.
Introducing our new Communications Officer, Alex Mancini
Alex has joined the NHQB from a real-estate law firm and will be supporting the NHQB with public relations, press releases, written communications, and business relationships. Alex studied English and American Literature and Philosophy at the University of Kent, with a year in Communications at a global tech corporation. Alex has worked in effectively communicating and engaging with people for tech, real estate law, and now the new homes sector.
If you would like to reach out to Alex, please contact him at [email protected]