The Consumer Code was designed to provide home buyers with a fair and transparent process, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing for housing developers. So what’s been the main challenge and how can house builders overcome it?

What is the Consumer Code?

The Consumer Code for Home Builders  came into force in April 2010 with the intention of providing  protection and rights to buyers of new homes.

It aimed to do this by providing a code of conduct that all registered homebuilders needed to adhere to in their marketing, sales and post-purchase customer service. This would allow for a more transparent  process, and ensuring new home buyers were  treated fairly and given all relevant information before and after purchase.

The requirements of the Code

The 19 requirements of the Consumer Code were designed to reinforce best practice across the home building industry. They cover a range of consumer-focused issues, including things like:

    • adopting the Code and making it visible and available for consumers, while providing training in what it means for staff and the building company.
    • ensuring all sales and marketing material and activity is clear and truthful providing consumers with enough pre-purchase information before making a decision (such as a brochure detailing the general layout)
    • providing guidelines for fast and appropriate handling of complaints and disputes.

Where any breaches of the Code arise, the home Warranty Bodies with whom the home builders are registered can apply sanctions, including removal and ongoing exclusion from the register.

How we’ve seen it  impact  housing developers

While the Code set out with the best intentions for consumers, in our experience there have been a few challenging areas for house builders—the key one being regarding repercussions for specification changes.

In the last few years, we’ve seen how on-site operators ‘going freelance’ with designs has led to claims against developers because what was eventually built did not reflect the drawings that were initially provided to the home buyers.

There have  also been issues with the clients themselves implementing specification changes on standard house products which were not communicated to the architects and have therefore led to discrepancies between design and build.

Changes such as showing alarm keypads on M&E plans which have been omitted in the specification can result in serious claims being put forward. While even minor tweaks to drawings can result in fines due to sockets and radiators ending up in incorrect positions.

Using BIM  to protect against claims

It is essential  that effective portfolio management of house types is maintained and controlled centrally across multiple sites. Thankfully today’s technology makes this easy to achieve.

By using Building Information Modelling (BIM) software a good development services team should be able to manage any changes across a range of sites. This maintains a standard product which then evolves on a site-by-site basis as a result in changes in consumer trends.

Logistically speaking, on a site of hundreds of houses a full ‘as-built’ survey is almost impossible. But  with the ease in which we can effectively manage these specification changes with BIM, it can help us ensure  protection for the client against any future claims for breaches of the Code.