Housing's quality crisis: what's the solution?

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Persimmon’s offer of retentions to customers and a government-appointed ombudsman only offer partial solutions

Housebuilder Persimmon is not the most popular firm in the UK at the moment. Beyond the widespread anger over the £75m bonus paid to former chief exec Jeff Fairburn, the £3.7-bn turnover volume builder has found itself at the centre of a growing storm about the poor quality of new-build homes. The latest customer satisfaction survey from the Home Builders’ Federation shows the builder is one of the few to receive just a three-star (out of five) rating. A simple Google search reveals a litany of complaints, from a house with a 700-item snagging list, to a 14,000-strong “unhappy customers” Facebook group filled with endless anecdotes of poor workmanship and dismal customer service.

In the last month, however, the firm has started trying to answer its critics. It has commissioned an independent review of quality and customer service by a high-profile QC, Stephanie Barwell, and, most eye-catchingly, announced it will allow all customers to hold back a 1.5% retention against build problems.

Persimmon is, to date, the only major housebuilder to come out with such an offer. But it is by no means alone in facing accusations of shoddy workmanship.

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