The Consumer Code for Home Builders is reminding all developers of the importance of engaging properly with the Independent Dispute Resolution Scheme (IDRS), after 12% of claims went unanswered by home builders in 2021.
Last year saw the highest number of complaints to date coming through the Code’s IDRS – but this only represents the tip of the iceberg, as many complaints are resolved by developers themselves or by warranty providers, before reaching the Code. Only contested or vexatious cases reach the Code resolution service and these are in the minority. This underlines the importance of developers having an effective and accessible complaints procedure and the need to engage with the IDRS when complaints are referred as they are often complex and detailed.
Of the 232 cases independently reviewed in 2021 by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) on behalf of the Code, developers failed to respond in 28 separate instances. In those instances, CEDR has only been able to consider evidence provided by the home buyer, and has not been able to take account of any steps developers may have taken or any processes that may be in place to support home buyers. Without the home builders’ perspective, lessons learned are less likely to identify and resolve the root cause of issues which would help developers improve their service in future.
Moreover, failing to engage with the IDRS, is discourteous to the home buyer and could be interpreted as a lack of commitment to customer service in general.
There have also been cases where developers have mistakenly believed they don’t need to respond until they receive the Proposed Decision from the Adjudicator. However, all evidence needs to be submitted prior to the Proposed Decision being reached to enable both parties to have a fair opportunity to have their say. Scheme Rules for the IDRS clearly state that both parties can only highlight factual inaccuracies thereafter:
“The Home Buyer may highlight factual inaccuracies and errors in law in the Proposed Decision, as well as submit additional evidence relating to points already raised in the case. The Home Buyer cannot introduce any new complaints at this stage. The Home Builder may only highlight factual inaccuracies and/or errors in law in the Proposed Decision. The Home Builder cannot submit any new evidence at this stage as part of any defence.”
Noel Hunter, Code Chairman, said: “Our Independent Dispute Resolution Scheme is exactly that – independent. As such, the adjudicators can only reach decisions based on the evidence supplied. Home builders need to demonstrate their commitment to customer service by engaging fully with this process so that lessons can be learned, where appropriate, and that decisions and associated actions accurately reflect the situation that has occurred.
“This happens in the vast majority of cases, which has resulted in some very useful learning for the industry. To strengthen this further, we urge all developers to respond proactively should CEDR contact them about a case so that they – and fellow home builders – can continue to learn from complaints.”