Government quality push backed by LABC

Local Authority Building Control (LABC), which represents local authority building control teams in England and Wales, has welcomed 10 recommendations made by a government inquiry into the quality and workmanship of new housing.

The LABC was giving evidence to the Commission of Inquiry which was established by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment. The inquiry report which was titled ‘More Homes, Fewer Complaints’ lists the recommendations and these have all been welcomed by the LABC.

One of the 10 recommendations was that the Government should establish a New Homes Ombudsman to mediate in disputes between consumers and homebuilders or warranty providers. This would be paid for by a levy on homebuilders and would be “a good way of applying pressure on housebuilders and warranty providers to deliver a better quality service.”

The report’s other key recommendations included standardising housebuilding sales contracts, giving buyers the right to inspect properties before completion, requiring housebuilders to provide buyers with a comprehensive information pack, a significant increase in skills training programmes, having the DCLG conduct a thorough review of warranties and making the annual customer satisfaction survey more independent of HBF and NHBC to boost customer confidence.

Commenting, LABC chief executive, Paul Everall said:

“We are aware that consumer satisfaction of new build homes has dropped in recent years. Perhaps this is understandable in that the recession badly disrupted the diverse and complex home building industry while at the same time higher compliance standards were introduced. However, the whole industry should choose to do something to correct this drop in quality.”

He added:

“We also know that purchasers sometimes struggle to have their complaints addressed and are confused by the different roles of the developer, structural warranty provider and building control.

“Overall, we believe the inquiry has successfully identified the key issues and produced 10 sensible recommendations.”

LABC advocated more transparency and better information being given to purchasers. Additionally, it recommended definitions of best practice, an industry commitment to effective third-party inspection and a boost for training.

Everall concluded:

“Buyers are starved of information that is used within the industry. In particular, purchasers could be told the standard to which a home is built and what checks and inspections have been done and by whom.

“Competition was introduced into building control over 30 years ago and while this may have had its benefits for developers, the increased choice of providers in recent years has produced price and service-based competition, which some people have described as a race to the bottom. LABC would welcome the introduction of minimum standards for building control inspections to support consumer protection. For similar reasons, LABC also supports a review of warranties because they have also become varied, competitive and price driven.”