In the last few weeks, we’ve received a number of queries and comments via social media, many of which required a response of more than 280 characters! However, we didn’t want to leave the comments unanswered, particularly as they relate to some important areas.
Take a look below for information in response to recent queries.
Will the proposed New Homes Ombudsman replace the need for the Consumer Code?
The spotlight is on proposals for a new homes ombudsman once again, and we are actively working with government to understand how the new proposals will work in practice and what rights consumers would have under the scheme. In the meantime, however, there has been some confusion about the role of an ombudsman.
There are clear rules about what an ombudsman can and can’t do. While they can award a remedy (including money) to rectify a problem, they don’t have jurisdiction to fine organisations or apply standards. So introducing a new homes ombudsman may help with dealing with the complaints about existing problems, but it won’t prevent future problems arising.
We want service standards in home building to improve. Training and compliance checks are needed which is one of the areas we focus on. Furthermore, under the Consumer Code, builders can and have been held to account for not complying with an adjudicator’s decision.
Our Advisory Forum advises the Code on policy and action. We also have a fully independent disciplinary and sanctions panel which considers what action should be taken against those builders that breach the Code requirements. For example, one builder was suspended from building any new homes until all staff had been trained on the Code to prevent further breaches of the Code.
Does the Consumer Code offer any more rights than existing legislation?
Unfortunately, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 does not cover purchases of new homes. That’s why the protection provided by the Consumer Code is so important – the Code gives buyers of new homes protection if they change their mind or find sales literature misleading or inaccurate.
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 offers some protection. However, it requires Trading Standards to take enforcement action or consumers to bring their own action, which can be complex and costly.
Where issues are identified under the Consumer Code, home buyers can use the Code’s Independent Dispute Resolution Scheme rather than take lengthy and costly legal action through the courts. We’re raising awareness of the Code because we want more home buyers to make use of this scheme to seek redress where a breach of the Code has been identified.
Why doesn’t the Code deal with more cases?
We are continually raising awareness of the Code so that we can encourage more people to access our independent dispute resolution scheme, including lawyers involved in new home purchases. We are also working on removing/reducing any barriers that may exist to raising a complaint as well as investigating options to raise the maximum award limit.
Satisfaction with new homes has increased according to the Home Builders Federation which surveys new home owners. The latest survey response rate was 62% (57,972 responses), in which 90% said they would buy a new build again. Warranty bodies have also seen a drop in claims raised.
We recognise that not everyone has a good experience, and where problems relate to a breach of the Consumer Code, we encourage people to raise a complaint – for more details on how to do so, visit http://bit.ly/CCHB_01