If you have already received and read our previous article ‘Appointment of the New Homes Ombudsman’ you will have a good understanding of how the appointment of the NHO has come about and, what the objectives of the new office are. If you haven’t, then you can read or download from our website: https://www.afterbuild.com/appointment-of-the-new-homes-ombudsman
The code (albeit still in ‘draft’ form) is split into four sections.
SECTION ONE Selling a new home
SECTION TWO Legal documents, information, inspection, and completion
SECTION THREE After-care, complaints management and the New Homes Ombudsman
SECTION FOUR Solvency, legal and jurisdiction
SECTION ONE Those housebuilders likely to find the imposition of the code most challenging will be those in the small and medium category, where internal resources are limited and the ability to create and administer new documentation and processes, scant.
It makes no sense for a housebuilder of that size to re-invent the wheel if access to a ‘turn-key’ package is already available. After Build has followed and contributed to the progress being made by the Home Office and tailored our own service to meet the new requirements.
Section one is probably more about taking the sales and marketing literature you already use and checking it against the new code. The NHOs objective is to communicate to a purchaser clearly, fairly and in simple, understandable language. You must refer to the NHO and explain how your business will be a part of the new scheme. This is more about transparency and good staff training so that everyone is delivering the same message. Access to the draft code is available at: https://www.nhqb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/The-Code.pdf SECTION TWO This is a little more onerous and it is where a housebuilder might face difficulty. Again, largely about checking documentation and process, however, here the concept of the ‘Complete New Home’ is first considered. It is what is says it is – a ‘COMPLETE’ new home i.e., at the point of legal completion there should be little outstanding and, where there it is that should be comprehensively documented with realistic delivery dates.
In our experience this is often where a housebuilder can get it horribly wrong. There are a multitude of reasons why:
The contracted trades have a different understanding of what is meant by ‘completed’
There is little or poor communication at site level to get a property over the line on time
Pressure on cash can make a housebuilder rush a property to get the completion revenue through the door and that can mean a property isn’t really finished at all.
All understandable, but in the new world order of the NHO this will not be acceptable and could provide compelling grounds for a complaint. This is where the NHO refers to the need for a final Quality Assurance Inspection, picking up any last-minute snags with time enough to correct them before legal completion. After Build provide this service, at a fixed-price, and it’s worth its weight in gold! SECTION THREE All of section three depends on well-conceived processes supported by bespoke systems. The days of using an Excel spreadsheet to manage defects are long over. Very often the sheer complexity of some can take a very sophisticated setup to see a problem through from start to end. Overall, After Care takes warranty standards knowledge and a highly trained resource with an overarching ability to manage both homeowner and contractor. The NHO is being very specific about the nature of this service – it must provide 2 years cover from legal completion (irrespective of what your warranty may otherwise stipulate) – it’s After Build’s core service and one we have successfully built our business on.
There will always be instances where snags have been overlooked or not adequately managed and this can quickly overwhelm a housebuilder. Again, we offer a resource to take this away and resolve it with our Snag Management service. Complaints Process – this is a complex requirement given the numerous stages and again, the NHO is very clear about how it must work. Our approach is to create a ‘template’ package for a housebuilder to integrate within their business. It is by far the easiest way to meet this requirement. SECTION FOUR Finally, the last section deals with solvency and legal matters. This is best reviewed by your legal advisor.