The independent ombudsman will enforce a new housebuilding industry code of practice – the New Homes Quality Code (NHQC). The new code puts significantly more responsibilities on builders for the service they must provide – particularly after a customer moves into a new home and for the handling of complaints.
The Dispute Service beat off tough competition to be selected by the NHQB following a tender process lasting over six months. The Dispute Service is best known for its work on government authorised tenancy deposit protection and dispute resolution services across the UK.
The ombudsman designate will be group director of resolution, Alison MacDougall. MacDougall has had extensive experience in dispute resolution and was also a senior investigator at the Police Complaints Authority dealing with serious complaints; including deaths in police custody.
Natalie Elphicke OBE, chairman of the NHQB said: “The ombudsman will be an independent customer guardian, making sure buyers get proper redress if they’ve been sold a shoddy home or suffer from poor customer service.
“A new home is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make and so it is right that we put the strongest protections in place to protect consumers buying a new home.
“The ombudsman and the powerful NHQC will drive up the quality of new homes and improve the service housebuilders provide to their customers.
“The Dispute Service proved that it had the necessary skills and experience to deliver an effective, efficient and robust New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS). They have a clear plan to create the powerful independent body that new home buyers deserve.”
Professor Martin Partington CBE, QC, chair of the dispute service, said: “The Dispute Service is delighted to have been selected by NHQB. We are a not-for-profit company which has its roots in dealing with tenancy deposit disputes and in the last 14 years we have completed over 160,000 adjudications.
“In this time we have developed a range of digital solutions designed to make it easier for consumers to raise complaints and for their complaint and supporting evidence to be easily uploaded into our complaints platform, which is accessible to all parties to a dispute.
“We have also worked hard to increase the number of complaints we resolve through our mediation and conciliation work, leading to speedier outcomes for consumers.
“We know that there are issues in the new homes industry and we are excited by the opportunity to build a robust and independent redress service for consumers to address their legitimate complaints.”
Steve Harriott, chief executive of The Dispute Service said: “We are already working hard to get the NHOS up and running. We are determined to work closely with both the NHQB and the housebuilding industry to make sure that they fully understand our role and that we can play a key part in helping to raise standards.”
Buyers of new builds who are unhappy with their new home or frustrated with the performance of the developer in handling their complaint will be able to ask the ombudsman to review their case.
Each case will then be independently reviewed to assess whether there has been a breach of the NHQC. The new code will be published in December 2021, following a full public consultation carried out earlier this year.