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Government proposes compulsory ombudsman for home builders

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  • 19/02/2018
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Government proposes compulsory ombudsman for home builders
The government is asking whether home builders and all private landlords should be required to join respective ombudsman and redress schemes.

Its questions come as part of a consultation into creating a single housing ombudsman to tackle complaints and redress issues within the property sector.

Proposals also include naming and shaming poor practice to help tackle the worst abuses.

Unlike other areas housing has more than four different complaints bodies.

“In other markets, such as financial services, a single ombudsman scheme operates,” the consultation said.

“This has the potential not only to create a stronger brand, giving consumers a clearer sense of where to go, but also to help ombudsmen more effectively drive service improvements. This option could potentially enable data to be aggregated and trends to be more easily spotted.

“Efficiencies may also be possible to achieve and could potentially make it more cost effective to fill any gaps in the system,” it added.

 

House builder complaints

The government appears to have concerns about how home builders are handling complaints.

It highlighted that too often it received letters from consumers detailing protracted disputes over snagging issues and cases where the home buyer did not feel they had been treated fairly during the purchase process.

“It is not always clear to home buyers who they should complain to and who is responsible for putting things right,” it said.

“The redress system is fragmented and we are concerned there are gaps in protection. For example, there needs to be more robust protection for homebuyers in the first two years after purchase.”

 

Private landlord redress scheme

The government said it had committed to changing the law to require all landlords to join a redress scheme making sure that every tenant has access to effective dispute resolution.

However, it wanted feedback on how this should be funded – including the possibility of a flat fee dependent on the size of the landlord’s portfolio, or the number of complaints received.

 

Ombudsman standards

Overall, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consultation, which is open until April 16, is seeking views on:

  • the current complaints and redress landscape, how it is working and if more can be done to improve it,
  • what standards and services should be expected of a redress scheme/an ombudsman,
  • how to fill the existing gaps between current services,
  • whether a single ombudsman service is needed to simplify access to redress across housing, and if so, what form that should take and what its remit should be.

Earlier this month the Ombudsman Services announced it was withdrawing from the property market in recognition of the need to streamline service provision and reduce consumer detriment.

Housing secretary Sajid Javid said: “For too long, tenants and homeowners have navigated multiple complaints procedures to resolve disputes about everyday household repairs and maintenance.

“Fixing this housing crisis is about more than just building homes, it’s ensuring people have the answers available when something goes wrong.”

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