Rob Clay-Parker, director at developer support services provider Consult 44 and expert in new builds, takes a closer look at the New Homes Quality Board’s new Quality Code
During the summer, the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) – the new independent body for overseeing the quality of the customer services offered by developers to buyers – completed its consultation on the draft version of its New Homes Quality Code.
The initial version of this code has detailed several new arrangements and measures the
NHQB wants to put in place to essentially help provide more protection for purchasers of new builds.
While this of course seems a positive step forward, questions are being raised about how effective this new code will be in achieving its aims and whether or not the agreed new practices will be effective enough.
What is being proposed in the new code of practice?
The code introduces a broad range of additional requirements for builders that means they now have to essentially fill in the gaps in the current levels of protection. At the same time, this must also ensure that every aspect of a new home purchase – from when a customer walks into a sales office, through to two years after occupation of the home – has consumer protection in place.
How effective will this code be in meeting its aims?
At the moment, only time will tell. However, with the new code and an independent ombudsman dealing with complaints and issues where problems are not resolved, it’s likely that builders and developers will get a clearer understanding of their obligations and, theoretically, homebuyers should benefit by subsequently facing fewer issues.
This does require developers to understand their responsibilities and for buyers to understand their rights (and obligations). This will take time and will probably require a test of each element of the code with a few going to the ombudsman for final decision before judgement can be drawn.
Are there any other areas the code has perhaps missed the chance to support?
On face value, it seems quite comprehensive regarding consumer protections and obligations. The details of how to handle complaints has also been made quite clear.
When might we start to see the impact of the code?
Consultation ended in July 2021 and implementation of the code will begin at the end of this year. Hopefully the code will be fully in place sometime in 2022, once existing consumer codes are absorbed.
What are the code’s potential shortcomings?
There are some industry concerns about how easily the code can be taken onboard by the sector. It will be a learning curve for both developers and the ombudsman in terms of the agreement on the required standards versus customers’ expectations, as well as agreeing which issues may still fall outside the proposed code.
Is the sector ready for the new code?
Larger national developers are already putting plans in place to manage the transition, suggesting they’re ready for it. But it does seem that small to medium developers are largely not fully aware of the new code and how it can be successfully implemented.
More evidence – and also support – is needed to show these developers understand the implications for an independent complaints review including the review processes and the proper investigation of any issues raised. What’s more, all of these aspects will require support for existing aftercare departments, which in the majority of cases, are not setup to deal with anything other than routine plumbing leaks and other minor problems.
What would better help the sector?
There needs to be further advertisement of the changes and better communication of the changes needed so developers can adopt them. Currently there doesn’t appear to be much being said outside professional journals and the website for the NHQB. In other words, proper and official guidance would be very useful.
What would better help consumers?
Simply put, developers and buildings being ready to roll the new processes out.
If developers and builders are more aware of the code and its implications, they can properly prepare for the implementation before its introduction. Ultimately, the code will have to be embedded in the full sales process, so the sooner they adopt it the better.
Equally, consumers need to understand their rights and also their obligations under the new code, as well as the what, when and how around escalating their issues.
Is any other support available?
It can be useful for developers to employ external expert support to support in the transition period – particularly in regards to customer care. At Consult 44, this is something we provide to help developers stay within the boundaries of the new code and, more importantly, get customer issues identified and resolved quickly.
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