By Frances Harrison, Chair of Code’s Disciplinary and Sanctions Panel
Although the majority of home buyers are happy with the service they receive when buying a new build home* we recognise that sometimes things do go wrong. If you believe a home builder has breached our Code, you can raise a complaint via our Independent Dispute Resolution Scheme (IDRS).
Our IDRS is free to use and is run by award-winning dispute resolution experts, CEDR Ltd. We have worked with CEDR Ltd to make the application process as straightforward as possible, but there are some things to bear in mind before you start filling in your form.
Evidence is everything
When it comes to filling in your form, the most important thing to keep in mind is evidence.
Your complaint will be assessed by a trained Adjudicator with experience in dealing with the
types of complaint covered by our Scheme and will also possess relevant legal knowledge. But don’t forget that they can only reach their decision based on the documents put in front of them. The more specific you can be about the issues you are raising the better, and where possible, back up what you say with supporting evidence which might include:
- Correspondence between you and your builder/agent
- Copies of brochures or plans
- Quotes for works needed
- Photographs to illustrate your concerns
No one sets out buying a new home with the expectation that they will end up making a complaint so it’s understandable that you may not have a complete audit trail of every conversation with your builder, but the more details you can provide, the better.
Estimates trump guesswork
If your claim relates to work that hasn’t been done that should have been, or additional work that is required, you should provide quotes or estimates. Often people can be tempted to request the maximum amount allowable under the Code, but Adjudicators can only award reasonable costs to rectify the issues raised and a larger, unsubstantiated claim is highly unlikely to be awarded.
Our records show that Adjudicators are much more likely to award the costs sought when the amounts are supported with estimates or quotes from tradespeople showing the expected cost of completing the work required.
Seeking financial compensation
When considering whether to award money for any inconvenience you may have suffered as a result of a breach of the Code, the Adjudicator will take account of:
• How much you have claimed in your application
• The severity and effects of the breach(es) of the Code
• What the Home Builder says about your claim and how they have behaved towards you.
The adjudicator may make a discretionary award for inconvenience, up to a maximum of £500 if they feel this is warranted.
While we recognise that complaints can be very emotive and take time to resolve, it’s important to understand the limitations of dispute resolutions schemes, including Ombudsman schemes. No alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme or Ombudsman has the power to fine companies or prevent them from trading, and compensation can only be awarded according to each scheme’s financial limits.
Reviewing the draft decision
The Adjudicator will prepare a written proposed Decision to the dispute. Both you and the Home Builder will have 10 working days to provide further comment on this Proposed Decision. The aim of this period is to allow you an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings or fill in any gaps in evidence where possible. It is not the time to introduce new elements to the complaint so please make sure your initial application form is comprehensive.
You will have six weeks to let CEDR Ltd know, in writing, whether you accept the Adjudicator’s final Decision. If you do not tell CEDR Ltd within six weeks, the Home Builder will not be obliged to take action in line with the Decision, so this is an important step in the process. Where you do not agree with the Decision, you are still able to pursue the complaint further through the courts should you wish to albeit any subsequent legal action is likely to take account of the adjudication decision.
The Home Builder must act on the Decision within 20 working days of the date of the
Adjudicator’s written notification. The Code’s Management Board will follow this up with the developer directly, as will the Adjudicator if they fail to do so. Although rare, if a builder refuses to comply with an Adjudicator’s ruling, our supporting Home Warranty Bodies may take further action which may be to apply a range of sanctions which can include:
- requiring the Home Builder’s staff who have contact with Home Buyers to be trained on their obligations under the Code
- withholding the issuing of certificates of insurance
- Suspension or removal from the Home Warranty Body’s register which can effectively limit their ability to trade.
Find out more:
For full details on how to make a complaint, including frequently asked questions, please download our guide: https://consumercode.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/CCHB-IDRS-FAQ-June-2019.pdf
*Home Builders’ Federation: National New Homes Customer Satisfaction Survey 2019 – https://www.hbf.co.uk/policy/policy-and-wider-work-program/customer-satisfaction-survey/latest-results/