Persimmon, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, has responded to criticism about the quality of its homes by allowing homebuyers to withhold an average of £3,600 per home until all faults are fixed.
The company has come under fire for paying out £500m in bonuses to 150 executives and making an annual profit of £1.1bn on the back of the government’s help to buy scheme, while doing little to improve customer care and the quality of its new-build homes. Many homebuyers have complained about finding numerous defects after moving in, including leaks and cracking windows.
Persimmon said it would offer a homebuyer’s retention, by writing into its contracts that 1.5% of the property value – an average of £3,600 per home – can be withheld by the buyer’s solicitor until any faults identified are resolved. The company expects the policy to be fully in place by the end of June.
Roger Devlin, the chairman, said: “This is a first among the UK’s large housebuilders and I hope will lead the way in change across the sector. This move, and the urgency with which we will introduce it, is a clear and unambiguous signal of cultural and operational change at Persimmon, putting customer care at the very centre of the business.”
Dave Jenkinson, the new chief executive, said: “Persimmon is listening hard to all of its stakeholders and we hear the message that we need to continue to raise our game in customer care.
“We are determined that the experience is not overshadowed by teething problems and providing a homebuyer’s retention is an important step towards achieving this.”
He said the builder had also taken steps to improve its accuracy of anticipated moving-in dates. Other improvements include offering maintenance appointments at weekends and out-of-hours opening of customer care departments.
Jenkinson, the former group managing director, took over from Jeff Fairburn, who left in November after his huge bonus – which made him the UK’s highest-paid chief executive – sparked outrage. The firm’s annual report recently showed that Fairburn was paid nearly £85m in the past two years, more than the £75m he was thought to have received. Jenkinson received £45m.
Persimmon’s huge gains from the help to buy scheme – nearly half its 16,449 home sales last year were made through the tax-payer-funded scheme – have sparked a review by the housing minister.