The New Homes Quality Code aims to address the gaps in existing protections for new-build customers.
The code — which has been in development for four years and has received input from a range of stakeholders — introduces a series of additional requirements for builders to fill the gaps in current protections and ensure that every aspect of a new home purchase up to two years after occupation of the home is covered.
It also takes into consideration other emerging policy, including on leasehold and building safety.
In particular, it requires builders to have an effective aftercare service in place to deal with any issues or ‘snagging’ problems customers have with their new home, in addition to a robust complaints process.
The new code also:
- protects vulnerable customers, prohibits high-pressure selling, and requires any deposits the customer pays to their builder to be protected
- requires the builder to provide all relevant information about the home during the sales process — including its tenure and any future management or service charges — that allows them to make an informed decision about their purchase
- sets out requirements for a fair reservation agreement, including a ‘cooling off’ period and sales contracts
- allows customers to have a professional carry out a pre-completion inspection of their home on their behalf
- specifies that a home must be ‘complete’, preventing builders paying customers to move into a new home early
The consultation will run for four weeks from 9th June and the NHQB is encouraging as many stakeholders, customers and interested parties as possible to respond.
After the consultation closes, the NHQB will consider all representations made and refine the draft code accordingly.
The NHQB aims to have the final code agreed by summer, followed by increased engagement with the industry to ensure housebuilders are able to undertake staff training and make the necessary changes within their businesses as speedily as possible.
The organisation will also be setting up a number of specialist committees to advise the board, covering consumer, technical and political.
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In addition, the NHQB will also appoint a new homes ombudsman service (NHOS) to provide independent redress for customers not satisfied with their builder or new home.
An open public procurement process for the NHOS was launched late last month.
The 30-day period for interested parties to apply will close at the end of June, after which the NHQB will enter into a ‘preferred partner’ agreement with one party, with the intention to have the service open for business by Q4.
Once the new code is in place and the NHOS is operating, there will be a transition period for builders to register with the NHQB and submit themselves to the new arrangements.
Natalie Elphicke, independent chairman at the NHQB, said: “The launch of the consultation on the NHQB is a major milestone in our work to introduce a new and comprehensive framework of protections for homebuyers.
“I believe that the New Homes Quality Code fills the gaps in existing protections and will drive up build quality standards and consumer protections.
“I would encourage as many people as possible to complete the consultation and let us have any suggestions they have for how we can improve the draft code.”
Minister for rough sleeping and housing, Eddie Hughes, added: “I am delighted to see the publication of the draft New Homes Quality Code for consultation, which is an important achievement for the housebuilding industry.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is essential we build back better, improving standards of new housing for current homebuyers and future generations.
“All homeowners should have the confidence that they will be well protected and any issues they encounter will be independently dealt with, which is why the launch of the consultation represents a great step forward for the industry and the homeowning public.”
The NHQB has worked with the government on the New Homes Quality Code and the NHOS, and has also held positive discussions with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, with a view to the new arrangements ultimately operating on a UK-wide basis.