1. Fees and other expected costs

  2. Documentation logos and guidelines

  3. Launch of the Code, ombudsman and registration

  4. After-sales and complaints 

  5. Sales and marketing

  6. New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS)

  7. Pre-completion inspection

  8. NHQB and training

1. Fees and other expected costs

How much will developers be charged for this new scheme?

A key requirement of the new arrangements is that access to the New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS) is free to consumers and, therefore, costs are covered by developers. There will be an annual registration fee which is based on the developer's number of plots built and annual turnover from the sale of private homes. Click here to view the Table of Fees. 

How does the process work for paying charges?

When a developer applies for registration, we confirm the annual registration fee.  Developers can choose to pay in one upfront payment or in instalments.  Further renewals will be every 12 months.

How have the charges/fees been determined?

The fees are set to cover the operating costs of the New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) and the New Homes Ombudsman (NHOS). Both are not-for-profit organisations, and we periodically review the structure for charges/fees to ensure we remain as fair as possible. 

Do we still have to pay for the existing Codes?

Developers will not have to fund the existing codes once they have registered and activated under the new arrangements.  

The new Code and Ombudsman do not apply retrospectively.  Any complaints from customers who reserved their new home before a developer is registered with NHQB should pursue their complaint through the previous process and appropriate Code body.

2. Documentation logos and guidelines

Will developers have to display both the NHQC logo and the NHOS logo on their marketing material?

Developers are required to display the NHQC logo on their marketing material.

Displaying the NHOS logo is not a requirement of the New Homes Quality Code, but this should be seen as a positive commitment by the developer. We have produced individual NHQC and NHOS logos, as well as a joint version for developers to use where appropriate.

Will the New Homes Quality Code (NHQC) be provided by the NHQB in different formats/languages?

The New Homes Quality Code is available in English and Welsh versions, as well as in large print. 

Can we use our existing code logo as well as the NHQC logos on websites/documents at the same time?

Once a Developer has activated their registration with the NHQB, all new reservations will be covered by the new Code and the Ombudsman.  Customers who reserved before the activation date will continue to be covered by the existing arrangements.  Developers will therefore need to include both logos on their websites for two years after they activate with NHQB, and signpost customers to the correct scheme, depending on when they reserved their new home.

3. Launch of the code, ombudsman and registration

Where can I get a copy of the New Homes Quality Code?

The Code is available, free of charge on our website: here.

What is the process for registering with NHQB?

This is a two stage process:

  1. Developers will initially apply for registration on our online portal and pay the annual registration fee.  At this point, training, logos and support resources are provided to assist the developer in preparing for these arrangements.  There will then be a transition period for the Developer to complete their readiness activities, e.g., training, updating complaints procedures, branding, etc. Developers will appear on the Register of Developers as 'pending'. 
  2. Once the readiness preparations are complete, the developer will ‘activate’ their registration on a mutually agreed date.  Activation dates are the first Wednesday of every month.

When a developer activates their registration with the NHQB, they will be required to comply with the NHQC and NHOS for all reservations taken from the activation date.

The New Homes Quality Code (NHQC) refers to warranty providers but some developers use Consultants Certificates. Are they included?

Yes, all developers of private new homes can register with the NHQB to give their customers enhanced protections.

How often will the NHQC be reviewed / updated?

The NHQC will be reviewed periodically by the NHQB Code Council.

Will developers have to sign up their whole business or can they phase their launch in specific regions?

Developers register at parent company level but can then choose whether to activate their whole business or activate individual businesses/regions (so long as they are separate legal entities) in turn.

What criteria will developers have to meet during their application?

All developers of private new homes can register with the NHQB to give their customers enhanced protections.  While there is no minimum criteria, the NHQB does complete a validation check during the application process. 

What penalty could a developer face if they sign up but do not comply with the terms written?

The New Homes Ombudsman (NHOS) will make an assessment of whether the Code has been breached.  If so, they will seek a resolution that puts the customer back in the position they would have been, had the breach not occurred.

If a complaint is found in favour of the customer, then a developer may have to issue an apology and provide an explanation of what has happened. Alternatively, if the complaint was about something wrong in the home, the developer may be asked to rectify these issues promptly.

The maximum amount the NHOS can award in any complaint is £75,000.

How long will we have to get “ready” after registering?

Developers can take as long as required to comply with the new requirements, but we expect that this transition period will be around 3 to 6 months.

Which housebuilders can join, is it just volume developers?

All developers of private new homes can register with the NHQB to give their customers enhanced protections.

4. After-sales and complaints

How does a customer refer a complaint to the New Homes Ombudsman?

The developer should use their documented After-Sales Service/customer charter to clearly explain and specify how a customer should approach any issue e.g., snagging, emergency issues, service issues, etc. 

When a customer refers a complaint to the NHOS, they will be asked to confirm whether they have notified their developer and been through their complaints process. The code makes clear how ‘snagging’ issues should be dealt with and gives the developer 30 days to address them before a formal complaint can be made about that specific element. 

For more infomation on the New Homes Ombudsman's complaint service, please click here. 

The Code refers to standard responses required during the complaints process. Does NHQB provide text for these, or will each builder develop their own?

Templates for the various new forms and required letters/emails are provided along with other resources once Developers complete their application.

What is the complaint initiation date - the next working day or the day of receipt, even if 9pm on a Friday?

The complaint initiation date is the first working day after the complaint is received. For example, for complaints received on Monday, the complaint initiation date is Tuesday (the following day), and for complaints received on Saturday, the complaint initiation date is Monday (or in the case of a public holiday, the next working day).

If we miss a milestone in a formal complaint process, can the customer go straight to the NHOS?

Yes, the complaints milestones are a mandatory requirement of the Code and customers can refer their complaint to the NHOS if their developer has failed to achieve any of the requirements of the Code.

Can a customer go to the NHOS without going through our formal complaints process?

Where a customer refers a complaint to the NHOS, they will be asked to confirm whether they have notified their developer and been through the developer's internal complaints process.  In the event that they have not been through the formal complaints process then the NHOS will refer them back to their developer.

If the customer is unhappy with our final decision, do we still need to send a closure letter?

Yes, the Code requires developers to confirm the final outcome of every complaint with a closure letter.

This should provide an opportunity for the developer to set out the details of the case as they see it. It is likely the NHOS will consider this letter as part of their considerations as to whether the case justifies a NHOS investigation, so it is in the developer’s interest to send this letter.

What happens if the claim goes to the Warranty Provider first, does that come out of the 56 days?

If a Warranty Provider’s dispute resolution service is used as part of the customer’s complaint, this still forms part of the 56-day requirement. However, it is likely that the NHOS would want to consider the conclusions of any ongoing investigation by the Warranty Provider, if the reasons for it not being completed within 56 days are valid, before deciding whether to take the case.

How will frequent non-valid (vexatious) claims be treated?

Each complaint referred to NHOS will be reviewed on its own merits with the information provided by both customer and developer before any decisions are made.  Where a complaint is found to be not valid or vexatious, it will not be upheld and the customer will be informed.

If the customer wishes to instruct their own contractor to complete work required by the NHOS, what due diligence will be carried out around this?

It will be a matter for the customer to instruct a contractor if they are not willing to have the developer undertake the work and they will need to provide a range of quotes to determine the reasonable costs of having the work undertaken.

The customer will also need to understand that there may be some implications in relation to their warranty if the work is undertaken by a third party.

The NHOS will look at the individual circumstances to determine whether it is reasonable to have the work undertaken by a third party, rather than the developer.

5. Sales and marketing

Where do purchasers stand with a potential delay in completion date?

The Code covers the customer from the point they reserve through to two years post-completion. There are requirements for developers to provide customers with an accurate estimate of move-in dates. Section 2.7 ‘Contract of sale’ of the Developer Guidance offers further advice and information.

Developers are required to describe the new home including “Mobility Adaptations” – is there a definition?

This can be linked to customer vulnerability. Where possible/practical, the option to personalise a new home to accommodate a wheelchair, a hoist, accessible washing/bathing facilities, etc. should be offered where the property is at a stage where these can be incorporated and costed if necessary. This reflects the principles of the NHQC by adopting a customer-centric approach.

Does a developer need to confirm to customers the year of Building Regulations standards that the home is built to?

We expect developers to provide all requisite information to a customer. The applicable standards should be advised, and this will likely include the relevant year. Given the principles of the NHQC, a developer should not use a superseded standard as a reason not to apply a subsequently enhanced standard if it is practical to do so and beneficial to the customer.

What happens if there is a dispute with regard to any of the spoken statements during the sale of a house?

The NHQC recommends that customers state in writing what spoken statements they are relying on when entering into the Contract of Sale. 

We would suggest developers avoid purely spoken agreements as far as possible and where necessary, follow up on anything agreed verbally immediately in writing, which can then be referred to when completing the Contract.

The NHQC states that ‘minor’ changes should be notified to a customer but do not give rise to a right to terminate. How will this be defined?

The NHQC states “Minor changes to the New Home that do not alter the size, appearance or value from that shown to a customer in the Reservation Agreement and Contract of Sale, should be notified to a customer." 

There is nothing to stop the developer from specifying what they consider a minor change in their Reservation Agreement and therefore the customer is aware, and disputes are avoided.

The NHQC states the developer must provide the customer with a copy of the site plan but they are large documents and hard to print so we don’t usually provide a physical copy. Does that meet the requirement?

Yes. The important point is to document that the customer has seen the site plan.  A (non-technical) plan, showing the various plots, house types and basic layout of the site could also be included in the sales literature. The site plan can also be sent as PDF/electronic version to the customer. 

If a customer cancels during the 'cooling off' period, and reservation fees must be paid back in full, does this also include other payments such as for extras/upgrades?

This would depend on the timing of the cancellation and whether the developer can demonstrate that they have spent money on procuring materials for the extras/upgrades.  The Reservation agreement should specify how any pre-exchange of contract payments will be dealt with.

For vulnerable customers, will there be a scale of expectation depending on the size and scale of the business? Will colleagues be expected to be trained if in a customer-facing roles?

All employees in customer facing roles should have an understanding of how to identify vulnerable customers and have procedures in place to provide additional support.

With regards to the definition of a ’complete’ new home – are developers allowed to use temporary services for a short period?

Yes. The complete new home definition in the Code confirms that the new home is complete “if a warranty cover note has been issued and all rooms, spaces and facilities are in a finished condition for the purpose for which they are designed and intended, and the property provides safe entrance and emergency exit routes; with any further work to the home being either;

  1. solely decorative/corrective.
  2. related to shared common areas.
  3. related to transitioning from temporary to permanent utilities and services, in each case which does not affect the owner’s ability to live safely in the property or will not cause significant disruption or inconvenience to rectify or complete.”

The Developer Guidance states that it is best practice to offer more than one independent adviser. Can these advisers be from the same firm?

The principle here is to offer the customer the benefit of speaking to an adviser who specialises in the new home sector without restricting their choice. Whilst many Professional Advisers are individually accountable for any advice they give it would not be appropriate to offer advisers from the same firm/legal entity. When establishing the independence and autonomy of adviser firms, reference should be made to any regulator or professional body (e.g., Law Society, FCA, RICS, etc.) to identify that the firms are treated as separate legal entities.

6. New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS)

Are the 56 days, before a customer can make an Ombudsman complaint, working days or calendar days?

In line with other Ombudsman schemes, this is 56 calendar days (8 weeks).

How long will we have to respond to a NHOS claim?

The NHOS operates an online portal for customer complaints (www.nhos.org.uk).  Once a complaint has been received, it will be passed to the developer who will initially have 10 working days to provide a response.  Both parties will have access to all the information provided on the portal and after both have uploaded their input/evidence, there is a further 5 working days for any additional comments to be added. 

After this, the Ombudsman will consider all of the evidence and issue a draft decision for both parties to consider before a final decision is made. 

Can we appeal an NHOS decision?

No, the NHOS decision is final for both customers and developers.

The payment threshold is up to £75k. Do we have to pay it if we don’t agree with the outcome?

When a developer registers with the NHQB, they commit to complying with the New Homes Quality Code and any decisions made by the Ombudsman. 

In the event that a developer fails to comply with an adjudication, or persistently fails to comply with the Code, they can be referred to the NHQB Discipline & Sanctions Committee.  This committee will review examples of non-compliance and has a range of sanctions they can apply, depending on the nature of the breach. This starts with re-training employees and can go as far as removing the developer from the Register.

Will NHOS decisions will be made public, and if so where?

Complaints are published on an anonymised basis in the form of case studies on the NHOS and NHQB websites to help drive continuous improvement across the sector. The case studies and learning lessons from these are published as an exclusive benefit for NHQB Registered Developers.  

How does a customer make an Ombudsman claim, is there a website?

The NHOS operates an online portal (www.nhos.org.uk) where complaints can be made, or you can call them on 0330 808 4286.

Will the NHOS carry out desktop assessments or visit the customer’s home?

The NHOS will not visit the property. It will assess the information provided by the customer and the developer (and potentially warranty provider), including photographs, technical reports, copies of emails, forms, etc, and may take third party technical advice in order to make a decision based on the evidence provided.

What type of information will be taken into account and how will we provide any evidence to support the action we’ve taken?

The NHOS will operate an online portal where complaints can be uploaded and managed (www.nhos.org.uk). 

Developers will get the opportunity to upload any evidence to the NHOS that they feel supports their decision-making and demonstrates that they have treated the customer fairly, and met the requirements of the Code. If the customer has used the warranty provider's dispute resolution service, evidence from this could also be used by the NHOS to reach a decision.

What type of penalties are likely to be imposed so we can budget for these?

There are four potential remedies when a complaint is upheld:

  • Apology
  • Explanation
  • Rectification
  • Compensation/goodwill payment

The NHOS has proposed a maximum overall cost of £75,000 as the total limit for the resolution of an issue and any loss experienced. The setting of compensation and other sanctions in individual cases is a matter solely for the NHOS.

If a case is with NHOS and customer raises the matter with press etc how will that be handled?

It would make sense for the customer to exhaust the NHOS process before escalating as this may confuse/prejudice investigations.

Will you be publishing the Ombudsman's complaints online?

The NHQB will publish data on complaints once we have received enough to make deduce trends and systemic issues. Comaplaints are published on an anonymised ‘industry’ basis and do not identify individual companies.

Are we able to refuse action requested by NHOS if it conflicts with the warranty providers standards?

No, the NHOS is not there to view an issue from the point of view of a warranty provider’s technical standards, which are minimum standards. 

In the majority of cases you may expect that if the developer complies with the standards of the warranty provider, then they will indeed have treated the customer fairly and so the NHOS will not find against them, but it will not always be the case and developers need to develop a mindset of ensuring they are considering if they are treating the customer fairly, not just whether they are abiding by the warranty provider’s standards.

The warranty providers’ standards may evolve in time as a result of NHOS decisions. 

7. Pre-completion inspection

What kind of pre-completion inspection can the customer carry out?

In addition to the ‘home demonstration’ that most developers already provide, the NHQC allows for customers to have a pre-completion inspection carried out on their property by a suitably qualified inspector. 

The checklist allows for a full ‘finishing’ check to be done on the new home and that basic elements such as lights, taps etc are working.  Allowing a suitably qualified inspector to carry out this agreed template inspection meets the requirements of the NHQC.

Who pays for the pre-completion inspections?

The NHQC states that the customer has the option to have a pre-completion inspection carried out. If they choose to do so, it is at their expense.

Will there be a central register of people or companies able to undertake pre-completion inspections?

The New Homes Quality Code confirms that such an organisation should be part of a recognised professional association, experienced in surveying residential property. These include but are not limited to organisations such as RICS, RPSA, CIOB, ICWCI. Those associations will be able to provide details of their members who can undertake these inspections.

What if a customer wants to appoint a snagging company who does not meet the criteria for undertaking pre-completion inspections?

When inviting customers to undertake a pre-completion inspection, developers will need to confirm that this can only be done by a suitably qualified professional who can demonstrate membership of a body such as organisations like RICS, RPSA, CIOB, ICWCI. 

If the developer feels, and can justify that in their opinion, the inspector is not suitably qualified they can refuse them entry and should work with the customer to identity and agree an alternative inspector.

Is there a standard fee for pre-completion inspections or will inspectors/surveyors set their own charge?

Surveyors or inspectors will set their own fees and agree this with the customer.

Do we need our own forms to record a pre-completion inspection or will this be provided by the inspector?

Developers should record that a customer has been given the opportunity for a pre-completion inspection.

A standard template for the pre-completion inspection will be provided for use by all surveyors/inspectors but developers and inspectors may also create their own digital or paper version of the standard checklist that works within their systems and procedures.

Who can accompany the suitably qualified professional during the inspection?

At this point, the home is still owned by the Developer so they can decide whether a Site Manager or other role should accompany the inspection.

Can the pre-completion inspection delay legal completion if there are outstanding works?

No, it should not delay legal completion. As this is an inspection of the finishing standards of the new home, it is not meant to delay completion as any items identified should be of a minor, aesthetic nature rather than a significant defect.

Who can carry out the pre-completion inspection?

The NHQC specifies that the pre-completion inspection needs to be carried out by a suitably qualified professional. It is expected that ‘suitably qualified’ would include those who are members of a recognised professional body, such as RICS, RPSA, CIOB, ICWCI, or have relevant residential property surveying qualifications.

8. NHQB and training

Will NHQB be auditing developers?

Yes – this is a requirement for accreditation by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

Will the NHQB be providing staff training?

Yes. An online training module is made available to developers once they have completed their application to register. The training includes assessment modules for different job roles including sales staff and those providing after sales services.

Which site teams will need to undertake training?

The training has been developed to provide guidance for all customer facing employees (e.g., Sales, Site Managers, Customer Care, etc) but is also useful for the wider business to understand how the new requirements impact them.

How long is training likely to take to complete?

The NHQC eLearning module will take around one hour in total, however it’s possible for delegates to pause the module and return to the same point at a later date if they are unable to complete it all in one sitting.  The assessment at the end of the module has to be taken in one sitting.

My training account has been deleted?

For online security reasons, all accounts are deleted after 3 months regardless of usage. We suggest that once the course has been completed, that you print/save the pass certificate for your records as we are unable to retrieve deleted accounts. You should also receive an emailed copy of the certificate.

If you have not passed the training assessment within 3 months and your account has been deleted, you will need to reregister and complete the module again.

Is the NHQB training only for customer-facing staff or will it cover other functions such as Land and Technical?

The training module is the same for all employees, but the assessment test will differ according to whether the employee is in a customer-facing role or another (non-customer-facing) department.

What training material is provided and when will we receive that?

An eLearning training module is provided to developers when they complete their application for registration, and must be completed for all customer facing employees before the developer can activate.

Will case studies be made available for developers to learn from?

Yes, all learnings are shared as an exclusive benefit with our Registered Developers to improve the application and efficiency of meeting the Code's requirements.