Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced plans on Monday to introduce a new housing watchdog to “protect homebuyers from rogue developers”. The New Homes Ombudsman will be set up to support buyers of new builds where work has been below-par, and will have statutory powers to award compensation to buyers, ban rogue developers, and demand developers fix low quality building work. It comes following a 3-month consultation on the matter last year, in which 376 responses were recorded.
Under forthcoming legislation, housebuilders will be required to join the ombudsman, membership of which will be charged proportionately to the number of properties built by the individual developer. The government has additionally suggested it could waive initial fees for the smallest companies.
A Code of Practice will be developed with industry experts as guidance for developers on how they are expected to operate, and for consumers on what they should expect from their developer. MHCLG has ensured any Code of Practice will be appropriately flexible to accommodate for necessary updating.
Robert Jenrick commented: “it’s completely unacceptable that so many people struggle to get answers when the find issues with their dream new home. That’s why the Ombudsman will stop rogue developers getting away with shoddy building work and raise the game of housebuilders across the sector. Homebuyers will be able to access help when they need it, so disputes can be resolved faster and people can get the compensation they deserve”.
Questions remain over who will head up such an organisation, what exactly the standards underpinning its Code of Practice will be, how much membership will cost, and even when it will be introduced. After a lot of comment in recent weeks that the Government is on the verge of introducing radical planning reforms to drastically increase the number of houses built each year, this is no doubt a move to ensure the Government is seen as on the side of ‘the people’ instead of developers.