Ombudsman to police quality of building work

All Construction News

The UK government is moving forward with the creation of a house-builders’ watchdog after publishing the result of its consultation on the proposal.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed that legislation will be brought forward to set up the New Homes Ombudsman, with powers to police building quality in the residential sector and resolve disputes between house-builders and their customers.

In the interim, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) intends to set up a voluntary scheme to get it started.

The ombudsman will be funded by house-building companies – there will be a statutory obligation for developers of new build homes to belong to the New Homes Ombudsman – but will not hold power over individual tradespeople.

“If individual tradespeople fail to produce quality work, we believe the responsibility for rectifying issues is with the commissioning or building organisation or individual, as they will usually have a contract with the tradesperson,” the ministry said. “This will avoid any confusion as to who is ultimately responsible for the quality and standards of the work.”

The ombudsman announcement comes after a three-month long consultation held last year, to which MHCLG received 376 responses.

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Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “It’s completely unacceptable that so many people struggle to get answers when they 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.

“Currently, homebuyers who purchase new builds have no independent way of challenging developers’ service or poor workmanship. Today’s news will give people buying a new home the confidence they need that when they get the keys to their home, they are getting the quality they expect.”

This is the latest in a series of government interventions in the building industry – including developing a national model design code; consulting on the Future Homes Standard to address climate change; and the new Building Safety Regulator within the Health & Safety Executive.

But the Federation of Master Builders said that creation of the New Homes Ombudsman did not go far enough and even more intervention was required. Chief executive Brian Berry said: “While welcome, the drive towards ensuring quality for the consumer cannot be fully achieved without an industry-wide adoption of a licensing scheme. So long as any company is legally allowed to undertake construction work in the UK without having to demonstrate a minimum level of competence, homeowners will remain at risk from rogue builders and poor service, leading to the sorts of complaints that the New Homes Ombudsman has been established to address.”

This article first appeared in The All Construction Index.