James Shelley assesses the benefits of the New Homes Ombudsman to the UK’s house building sector.

The Government has confirmed it will set up the New Homes Ombudsman, an independent watchdog with statutory powers to resolve disputes between house builders and home buyers. We applaud the decision to press ahead with an initiative that will not only offer extra protection to consumers, but will also help to drive up quality standards.

Independent and operating separately from other industry watchdogs, the New Homes Ombudsman represents a serious crackdown on shoddy workmanship. The Government’s aim is to speed up the resolution of disputes, ensure that defects are rectified quickly and award compensation to consumers who deserve it.

It’s welcome news for buyers who currently have no independent access to redress if things go wrong and may face a lengthy and costly court case to resolve their dispute.

Ultimately, the aim is to drive up standards. The Government will legislate for a Code of Practice, setting out what consumers can expect and covering a developer’s entire buying and selling process. The New Homes Ombudsman will work to this Code when adjudicating complaints and use it to promote best practice.

It’s only right that access to support will be free for home buyers. Funding will come from organisations that commission or build new homes to sell, so commercial developers, housing corporations, private developers who construct shared ownership properties and social housing providers that sell freehold homes will be required by law to belong to the New Homes Ombudsman.

If their dream home is defective, consumers expect house builders to be held to account. Where tradespeople fail to meet key quality standards, the onus will be on those commissioning the work to fix defects. If developers don’t come up to scratch, the new watchdog has the powers to expel them. This is bound to have a positive knock-on effect, as house builders choose to contract with the most skilled and reliable carpenters and bricklayers.

We wait to see how the New Homes Ombudsman takes shape. But who can argue with a well-intentioned attempt to improve standards throughout the house building sector, drive out rogue builders and deliver a better service to home buyers?

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