The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Excellence in the Built Environment was formed in 2010.

The Group has undertaken 4 pieces of work since then relating to construction in Britain.

Its latest report resulting from its investigation entitled Inquiry into the Quality of New Build Housing in UK is due for publication in June.

It’s hoped the APPG will call on the government to create a New Homes Ombudsman as a recommendation from their Inquiry.

Why Does the UK Need a New Homes Ombudsman?

According to the Financial Times, England saw the construction of new homes rise 10% in the last financial year, with circa 118,600 homes completed in that time.

The rate at which new homes are being delivered is likely to remain at least as high when you consider that the Housing Minister Brandon Lewis wants to see delivery of a million more homes in England by 2020.

David Cameron is backing the drive for new homes as well. In an October 2015 speech he stated that Britain needs: “a national crusade to get homes built.”

However, the house building industry in the UK is dominated by a very small handful of players, and some would say their dominance has led to them being free to cut corners in a bid to increase their profits because of a lack of competition or scrutiny.

Harmful Effects of a Lack of Competition in Britain’s New Build Sector

Among the many virtues of competition cited in an article in the Journal of Antitrust Enforcement by Maurice E. Stucke, Senior Fellow at the American Antitrust Institute are:

  • lower costs and prices for goods and services
  • better quality
  • more choices and variety
  • more innovation
  • greater efficiency and productivity

Therefore, where there is very limited competition, e.g., in the British house building industry, one can assume a lack of the same.

During their long consultation and inquiry into the quality of new build housing in the UK, the Excellence in the Built Environment APPG heard from many new homebuyers who would agree.

Those they spoke to include many who have been delivered substandard new housing stock, such as the residents of a new-build apartment block in Guildford that was marketed as offering “luxury” accommodation, but which leaked rainwater and groundwater.

The Inquiry was also able to consider evidence from Channel 4’s Dispatches programme from last year.

Britain’s Nightmare New Homes

The Dispatches episode, entitled Britain’s Nightmare New Homes, unequivocally proved that you currently have more consumer protection in Britain when you buy a new toaster than when you buy a new home.

As industry experts told the programme, there is not enough focus on how we build homes in Britain; the focus is simply on delivery of quantity at speed and for maximum profit.

Those who contributed to the Dispatches programme also included homeowners whose houses had been built without insulation, and those whose houses had turned mouldy.

Dispatches also demonstrated how affected homeowners had significant battles to get their particular house builders to listen to them, and to take required remedial action, which in some cases was incredibly significant such as the entire removal of a roof!

Expected Findings of the Inquiry into the Quality of New Build Housing in UK

Oliver Colvile MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, gave a speech at the Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) Construction Industry Parliamentary Reception at the House of Commons on the 17th of May.

In his speech he touched on some of the findings of the Inquiry into the Quality of New Build Housing in UK.

One of the recommendations he spoke about was the requirement for a New Homes Ombudsman that “should be set up.” Mr Colvile expanded on this point by saying: “this would mediate disputes between consumers and their builders or warranty providers to offer a quick resolution.”

Having been one of the many contributors to the Inquiry, the author of the UK’s New Home Blog, who also attended the JCT Reception, usefully summarised the 4 main recommendations expected when the report is published: –

  1. A New Homes Ombudsman should be set up. This would mediate disputes between consumers and their builders or warranty providers to offer a quick resolution procedure.
  2. Standardised house building sales contracts should be enforced, meaning uncertainty surrounding bespoke builders’ contracts would be removed.
  3. A mandatory right for buyers to inspect/survey prior to financial completion.
  4. To improve transparency, builders should be required to provide homebuyers with a comprehensive information pack. This would include plain English explanations so that homebuyers can understand exactly what they are buying.

Let’s give the last word to the Inquiry Chairman Mr. Colvile – he has said he “believes at the very least, these four recommendations will go a long way to creating better homes for buyers, improving trust in the house-buying system and driving up standards across the sector.”

Via Vox Urban. Read the original article here.

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