Here, Rob Clay-Parker, director at leading developer support services provider Consult 44 and expert in all-things new builds, takes a closer look at the new code and explains more about it.
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 homebuyers should benefit by facing fewer issues.
This will require developers to understand their responsibilities and buyers to understand their rights (and obligations), which 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?
At face value, it seems quite comprehensive regarding consumer protections and obligations. The details of how to handle complaints have 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 on board 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 on 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 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 set up 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 assist 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.
*Rob Clay-Parker is the Director at developer support services provider Consult 44