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New-build housing: construction defects - issues and solutions (England)

Published Wednesday, August 23, 2017

This House of Commons Library briefing paper considers the existing building control regime and customers’ means of redress when faced with defects in newly built housing. It summarises the findings of the All Party Parliamentary Group's 2016 inquiry and recommended actions.

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More housing but poorer quality?

A good deal of political attention is focused on the need to increase the rate of house building, but alongside this are growing concerns about the quality of the houses under development. MPs are encountering constituents who have bought new homes and who are struggling to achieve satisfactory resolution when defects are reported to builders. The role of building control officers in ensuring compliance with the building regulations has been the subject of two Westminster Hall debates, one in 2015 and another in 2016. There are some high profile examples of some recently completed blocks facing demolition due to serious construction defects, for example, Solomon’s Passage in Southwark which was built in 2010.

An inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group

In this context, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Excellence in the Built Environment carried out an open inquiry into the quality and workmanship of new housing for sale in England and published its report, More Homes, Fewer Complaints, in July 2016.

The APPG identified a risk around efforts to incentivise house building for homeownership if similar attention is not directed at ensuring consumers are buying “new homes that are fit for purpose, are of enduring quality, perform to the requisite levels of maintenance, cost and energy efficiency and give peace of mind, pride and enjoyment to those who occupy them.”

APPG recommendations

More Homes, Fewer Complaints contains a number of recommendations which are aimed at:

  • improving the systems in place to check quality and workmanship;
  • developing a new quality culture within the construction industry;
  • improving customers’ means of redress through the establishment of a New Homes Ombudsman and a review of the warranty system; and
  • improving the information customers receive about their new home, including standardised contracts and a right to inspect before completion.

Taken together, the APPG felt that the recommendations would address the imbalance identified in the bargaining positions of builders and house-buyers.

This is not the first time that the standard of newly built housing has come under scrutiny. The Callcutt Review of Housebuilding Delivery (2007) noted concerns around caveats included within warranties provided on new homes. It was felt that they might not offer adequate protection for consumers. The Office of Fair Trading’s 2008 study of the homebuilding market also considered the effectiveness of warranties. One response was to recommend the introduction of a code of conduct to address the consumer protection concerns. The industry responded with a Consumer Code for Homebuilders, now in its fourth edition. However, the APPG concluded that the code “does not appear to give homebuyers the safeguards we think they should expect.”

 

 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7665

Authors: Wendy Wilson; Chris Rhodes

Topics: Construction industry, Housing, Housing standards, Housing supply, Owner occupation

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