The Dispute Service to operate New Homes Ombudsman service

Latest News Tue, May 10, 2022 8:40 AM

Following a rigorous validation process, The Ombudsman Association (OA) has approved the joint application by the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) and The Dispute Service’s to operate a New Homes Ombudsman service (NHOS).

The independent NHOS forms a central plank of the NHQB’splans to deliver a step change in the quality and customer service provided by house builders and the decision paves the way for its introduction over the coming months.

The NHQB selected The Dispute Service as its preferred partner to establish a NHOS following a lengthy and robust procurement process last Autumn. Since then, The Dispute Service has been working closely with the NHQB to create an open and customer focused service and get the NHOS ready to launch. Part of that process has been to work with the NHQB to get approval from the OA for the new body.

The OA process is rigorous and required the applicant to meet a detailed set of requirements around independence, fairness, effectiveness, openness, and accountability. The Dispute Service, working with the NHQB submitted a comprehensiveapplication that was considered by the OA’s Validation Committee, and after thorough examination approved by the OA Board.

Following the approval, The NHQB has contracted with The Dispute Service and the final preparations are being made to enable the NHOS to go live. It is expected that the first builders will start to come under the remit of the NHOS later this year.

The announcement is the latest in a series of milestone reached by NHQB in recent months including the introduction of a new industry code of practice, the New Homes Quality Code, that puts considerably greater responsibility on developers, which was published before Christmas. This was swiftly followed in January with the first developer registrations with the NHQB. April then saw the appointment of a new top team including CEO Leon Livermore, former CEO of Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), and Rob Brighouse to replace Natalie Elphicke as Chair.

Upon registering with the NHQB, developers are provided with a suite of staff training and supportive material. These enable them to make their final preparations to be able to meet the requirements of the New Homes Quality Code. Once both parties are satisfied the developer is ready, they will ACTIVATE, and from that date, all customers purchasing from them will be protected by and have recourse to the NHOS. The NHQB is working with a range of builders to prepare them to activate in the autumn.

The powerful new independent ombudsman will enforce the New Homes Quality Code, which ensures customers are treated ‘fairly’. The new code puts significantly greater responsibilities on builders for the service they must provide – particularly after a customer moves into a new home and sets very high standards for how complaints must be handled.Customers that are unhappy with their new home or frustrated with the performance of the developer in handling their complaint will be able to ask the NHOS to review their case.

The NHOS will independently consider customers’ cases and rule whether there has been a breach of the New Homes Quality Code, but it will not look retrospectively at cases, only at cases brought by customers who purchased after their builder had activated.

Former Chair of the NHQB Natalie Elphicke OBE, who led the work to put the new arrangements in place over the past three years said; “The approval by the Ombudsman Association to operate a new homes ombudsman is a major milestone in the work of the NHQB. The approval moves our plans to deliver a step change in how developers treat their customers a step closer. Over the coming months we will start to see developers registering and working to the powerful new industry code of practise we have created, and their customers having access to robust independent redress should they feel they need it. I am looking forward to homebuyers across the United Kingdom benefitting from quality new homes and better consumer outcomes.”

Rob Brighouse, chair of the NHQB said; “This is a very exciting and significant milestone as we look to put the new arrangements in place. Leon and I are committed to building on the great progress made to date and working with TDS to introduce the new arrangements. Once in place they will deliver significant benefits for consumers and industry alike.”

It is expected that the majority of developers, including all larger ones, will be registered with the NHQB by the end of the year and have activated and committed to the new arrangements by the spring of 2023. This means that by that point, the overwhelming majority of new build purchasers will have access to a powerful Ombudsman to take up any issues they may have with developers.

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