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Column 28th August 2019

Will a new housing ombudsman hold builders to account?

Even our ex-Prime Minister is worried about new homes.

She recently gave a keynote speech for attendees of Housing 2019, the Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) conference in which she called for new regulations to mandate developers to build higher-quality housing.

She said that she could not “defend a system in which owners and tenants are forced to accept tiny homes with inadequate storage…

“Where developers feel the need to fill show homes with deceptively small furniture…

“And where the lack of universal standards encourages a race to the bottom.”

One Housing Association CEO (Sheron Carter, of Habinteg) supported the importance of better design standards for all new homes and pointed out that “It is vital that these standards include accessibility for older and disabled people.  Our recent accessible homes forecast revealed that, shockingly, only 1% of planned homes outside of London will be suitable for wheelchair users.”

The response from house builders has been conspicuous by its absence.

Mrs May was, however, supported in her condemnation of developers by Robert Halfon MP in Prime Minister’s Question Time on 17 July when he said

“I met a group of residents in Harlow, many of them on Government Help to Buy schemes, who moved into homes built by Persimmon Homes that are shoddily built with severe damp and crumbling walls. In the eyes of my residents, Persimmon are crooks, cowboys and con artists… Persimmon Homes should not behave in this way.”

The government has already announced their intention for a new homes ombudsman to protect the rights of homebuyers and to hold developers to account - but we’ve seen ombudsmen for other industries.

There are 16 types of ombudsmen already in this country, covering everything from health services and telephone providers to energy and consumer purchases.

An ombudsman will only look into a case if     you've suffered personal injustice, hardship or financial loss because of the action (or lack of action) of an organisation and you've already given the organisation an opportunity to resolve your complaint.

Surely new homes warranties like the National House-Building Council (NHBC) 10 year guarantee would cover most things but like ombudsmen they rely on the builder to remedy the faults.

Generally people don’t like having their faults pointed out so why should developers be any different.

It would be much better if they learnt to put more care and attention to doing a good job in the first place.


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