New watchdog will have power to ban rogue builders

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A new body will be set up with powers to ban rogue developers from building new houses, and award compensation to those stuck in “shoddy” new-builds.

The new homes ombudsman, which was promised in the Queen’s Speech last year, will be expected to take “swift action” to resolve problems.

It will be tasked with resolving issues like faulty wiring, encountered by buyers of new homes.

Homebuilders will be forced to sign up to the ombudsman register.

The Home Builders Federation’s own satisfaction surveys showed a rise in the number of customers reporting snags – from 93% in 2015 to 99% in 2018.

And only 52% of people who had bought new homes said they would recommend their builder to a friend.

Details of the plans to appoint an ombudsman were outlined by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick in the House of Commons on Monday.

“It’s unacceptable that new houses have been built in many cases to a shoddy standard, and some housebuilders have displayed poor service when housebuyers find they have problems with their new home,” he said.

He added that builders would have to “put quality first if they wish to continue to be part of the government’s Help to Buy scheme”.

“The ombudsman will stop rogue developers getting away with shoddy building work, and raise the game of housebuilders across the sector,” Mr Jenrick said.

“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.”

At present, homebuyers who buy new-builds have no independent route to challenge developers over bad service or poor workmanship.

No minimum standards

The government said the new service will be free to consumers and independent of industry. However, it has not said how the body will be funded.

It has also not given details about when it will be introduced.

Labour said Conservative ministers were “on a go-slow” on issues around housing standards.

“It’s shameful that last year 99% of buyers reported problems with their new-build home,” said shadow housing secretary John Healey. “No other market gets away with such a sky-high defect rate.”

“These proposals for an ombudsman were announced almost 18 months ago, but there’s still no date for the legislation that will be needed to make it work for all home-buyers,” he said.

In December, an independent report found that Persimmon, the UK’s second-biggest housing firm, did not have an agreed minimum standard for all the homes it builds.

The review found that some houses did not have fire-stopping cavity barriers, or they had been wrongly installed.

A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation welcomed plans for a new ombudsman.

He said improving the quality of new homes was the “number one” focus for the industry.

“There’s still a long way to go but the new homes ombudsman is part of how we deliver those improvements,” he said.