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Complaint Handling for New Home Buyers

Purchasing a new home is an exciting journey, but it can also lead to unexpected challenges, particularly when disputes with builders arise. For new home buyers, understanding how to handle complaint mechanisms is essential. Effective resolution of these disputes ensures that your rights are protected, and you can enjoy your new home as intended. In the UK, two primary frameworks aim to assist homeowners in these situations: the New Homes Ombudsman Scheme and the Code of Conduct for Builders. Each offers different approaches to enforcement, scope of coverage, and dispute resolution.

The New Homes Ombudsman Scheme is a government-backed initiative that provides a structured avenue for homeowners to escalate their complaints against builders. This scheme is designed to enforce standards and ensure that builders adhere to regulations, aiming to resolve issues ranging from construction defects to contractual misunderstandings. However, it has often been critiqued for its perceived lack of enforceability regarding penalties, which might undermine its effectiveness as a deterrent against unethical building practices.

On the other hand, the Code of Conduct for Builders consists of a set of guidelines that outline the ethical standards and best practices builders are expected to follow. Its primary goal is to foster a high level of customer satisfaction. Critics argue that this code is too lenient, with insufficient enforcement mechanisms, allowing some builders to evade significant consequences for non-compliance.

One of the most crucial differences between these schemes is their approach to enforcement and penalties. The Ombudsman Scheme’s limitations in imposing penalties can sometimes allow builders to continue poor practices with little fear of repercussion. Conversely, the Code of Conduct’s lenient nature and lack of robust enforcement tools can leave home buyers feeling unprotected and builders largely unpunished.

The scope of coverage and the independence of oversight vary significantly between the two. The Ombudsman Scheme offers broader protection, addressing a wide array of issues from the quality of construction to after-sales service. Its structure as an independent entity aims to ensure impartial resolutions. However, the Code of Conduct is overseen by industry bodies, which may lead to potential conflicts of interest and questions about the fairness in the resolution of disputes.

In terms of complaint handling, the New Homes Ombudsman Scheme provides a more formalised process with explicit steps and timelines, designed to guide home buyers through their complaints efficiently. The Code of Conduct, however, lacks a standardised approach, potentially leading to inconsistent and delayed resolutions.

Recommendations for Complaint Handling

As a new home buyer, it is vital to be proactive and well-informed about the complaint handling processes available. Understanding both the New Homes Ombudsman Scheme and the Code of Conduct for Builders will help you determine the most appropriate avenue for your situation. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Research Both Schemes Thoroughly: Before lodging a complaint, understand what each scheme covers and how they might apply to your situation.
  • Keep Comprehensive Records: Maintain detailed documentation of all interactions with your builder and any issues that arise, as this will be crucial if disputes escalate.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Given the complexities involved in both schemes, consulting with a legal expert can provide clarity and improve your chances of a favourable outcome.
  • Engage in Advocacy: Participate in discussions or forums to advocate for improvements in these schemes. Sharing your experiences can help shape future regulations and protections for home buyers.


Complaint handling as a new home buyer requires a clear understanding of the available mechanisms designed to protect your interests. The New Homes Ombudsman Scheme and the Code of Conduct for Builders each have their strengths and weaknesses. By being informed and prepared, you can effectively address any disputes with your builder, ensuring that your rights are upheld and that your new home meets your expectations. As the landscape of consumer protection continues to evolve, staying engaged and informed is your best strategy for protecting your investment in your new home.