As all eyes were on BREXIT this summer a report from the APPG for Excellence in the Built Environment called for the quality of construction and consumer care to improve.
In an unbalanced and consumer biased report a group of cross party MP’s aimed ill-researched criticism at the industry.
The report claims:
- There is a monopoly amongst housebuilders;
- There is an imbalance in bargaining power between builder and consumer;
- Means of redress for consumers are inadequate;
- Court claims are costly and inaccessible;
- Warranties cover less and are inaccessible.
Fortunately the report is not binding. One must hope that the passage of time does not confer upon it credibility which would be ill deserved.
Let’s kill dead one misconception. A new home is not factory built. It is built open to the vagaries of inclement and unpredictable weather.
The materials used contract and expand and need time to dry out and settle. Therefore snags and minor defects are inevitable (as the courts have recognised in several cases).
Defects are always corrected. That does not entitle customers to compensation however the US led ‘blame culture’ perpetuates the myth that it is. However reasonable and cooperative the housebuilder, it is likely to be subject to extortionate claims for compensation (often accompanied with thinly veiled threats of media attention). To put it bluntly this is, of course, blackmail.
Having 15 years’ experience of dealing with such claims against housebuilders, I have never met a major housebuilder who will not correct snags and defects.
Such allegations are flawed and overly simplistic.
Consumers have many avenues of complaint open to them including:
- The Housebuilders own complaints procedure;
- The Consumer Code;
- The warranty and resolution reports;
- The County Court ‘Small Claims Track’;
The recommendations from the report are:
- DCLG should initiate steps to set up a New Homes Ombudsman
- Housebuilding sales contracts should be standardised
- Buyers should have the right to inspect properties before completion
- Builders should be required to provide buyers with a comprehensive information pack
- There should be a review of laws governing consumer rights when purchasing a new home
- DCLG should commission a thorough review of warranties
- Housebuilders should instigate a new quality culture by adopting quality systems to ISO standards
- The industry should significantly increase skills training programmes
- A minimum standard should be set for compliance inspections
- Housebuilders should make the annual customer satisfaction survey more independent to boost customer confidence
I regard 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9 to be unnecessary and only three of the recommendations (4, 6 and 8) to be worthy of some consideration.
Overall, however this is a report that is largely flawed, based upon poor, limited research and an unnecessary and unjustified attempt to impose greater regulation upon the industry.