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New Homes Quality Code Parts 1 and 3: Mis-selling, Restrictive Covenants, Complaint handling

Outcome: Upheld in part

Case date: 7th September 2023

The Issues

The customer complained about the information provided by the developer in relation to covenants and that support promised by the developer failed to materialise. The customer also complained about the time taken to communicate with them once they had raised their concerns and the way in which their complaint was handled. 

The Circumstances

Shortly after the customer moved into the property, they contacted the developer with concerns about how a neighbour was using an area of shared access.  The developer offered to send a letter to the neighbour to remind them about the restrictive covenants attaching to their purchase.  At the same time, the developer suggested to the customer that they took independent legal advice, as covenant issues ultimately need to be resolved directly between homeowners.

The customer took their own legal advice, which was initially to await the outcome of the developer’s contact with the neighbour, and the customer let the developer know about this.  Several weeks passed, and the customer contacted the developer on a number of occasions to ask about progress.  Eventually the customer was told that the developer would not write directly to the neighbour as had originally been offered, but would send a general circular to all residents, reminding them of their responsibilities.

The customer complained to the developer about the time that had been taken, the uncertainty it had created and the delays this had caused to their own potential action.  The customer raised a number of additional concerns about the neighbour’s actions and questioned whether the developer had been aware of these in advance of their purchase.

The customer followed the developer’s complaints process but had to chase the developer for responses and was ultimately not satisfied that the complaint had been addressed fully or in accordance with the new homes code.

The Ombudsman’s Decision

Following further enquiries, we concluded that there was no evidence that the developer had been aware of the covenant breaches before the customer told them.  This aspect of the complaint was not upheld, although the Ombudsman commented that it may be helpful to provide customers with written information about covenants during the initial reservation phase so they can understand more about their purpose and means of enforcement.

The Ombudsman concluded that the way in which the developer had handled the offer to help the customer fell below the standards of transparency in the new homes code, took too long and required the customer to chase repeatedly for progress.  Some aspects of the way the complaint was dealt with did not meet the timescales set out in the new homes code and not all of the customer’s concerns were addressed.  These aspects of the complaint were upheld.

The Ombudsman concluded that the developer should pay the customer £200 in recognition of delays and inconvenience caused by the way in which the customer’s concerns had been handled.

The customer and developer accepted the outcome.

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