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£150 for two years of house problems: Owner hits out at 'insult' over new-build defects

PUBLISHED: 06:30 13 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:15 14 July 2019

Families across Norfolk have complained of numerous snags and defects in their new-build homes - but developers are doing little to resolve these issues. Picture: Archant

Families across Norfolk have complained of numerous snags and defects in their new-build homes - but developers are doing little to resolve these issues. Picture: Archant

Archant

People moving into new homes are regularly facing a swathe of problems with their properties, which are then not being dealt with quickly enough by developers, an investigation has found.

Heidi Walker has been fighting with Avant Homes to fix the floor in her new-build home since she moved in in July 2017. Picture: Ella WilkinsonHeidi Walker has been fighting with Avant Homes to fix the floor in her new-build home since she moved in in July 2017. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Buyers have today revealed their long battles with builders to get snags with their new homes fixed and their frustrations they are being 'passed from pillar to post' with no way of getting proper compensation.

Cases uncovered by this newspaper include:

-A single mother in Hethersett who has to move out of her house two years after she complained about her kitchen floor.

-A couple in Costessey who have had to move out twice for insulation to be installed in their home, only to find, more than two years after buying the house, that the work had not been finished.

Heidi Walker has been fighting with Avant Homes to fix defects in her new-build home since she moved in in July 2017. Picture: Ella WilkinsonHeidi Walker has been fighting with Avant Homes to fix defects in her new-build home since she moved in in July 2017. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

-A teacher in Southery who has found more than 160 defects in her home, with the list of snags still outstanding more than a year after living at the property.

Homebuilders are meant to put right faults within the first two years of the house being sold. After that homeowners can go to warranty providers.

But one MP criticised the system, while many complaints have been made against homebuilders for not fulfilling that agreement.

These centred around five areas:

Heidi Walker has been fighting with Avant Homes to fix the floor in her new-build home since she moved in in July 2017. Picture: Ella WilkinsonHeidi Walker has been fighting with Avant Homes to fix the floor in her new-build home since she moved in in July 2017. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

- Delays in carrying out remedial works within the first two years.

- The repair not being completed to a good standard.

- Difficulty in getting in contact with homebuilders

- Snagging issues not being covered by home warranty providers

- Lack of compensation for homeowners

In response one developer apologised, another denied there were problems while a third blamed the homeowner.

There are signs of a change in the industry, however.

In April Persimmon Homes became the first housebuilder to launch a review into better customer care.

Chairman, Roger Devlin, said at the time: "We must ensure that all our customers are provided with the care, service and high quality homes that they rightfully expect."

Paula Higgins, chief executive of Homeowners Alliance, welcomed the review but questioned how much it would help.

"They have only agreed to put right snags identified the day people move in - not emerging snags," she said.

"Many of these people have been continually passed from pillar to post by large well-known developers when all they have been trying to do is get their home to the standard they expected.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said the housebuilding system is failing families. Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich South MP Clive Lewis said the housebuilding system is failing families. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

"Sadly the Homeowners Alliance is inundated with enquiries from members who have unacceptably long lists of snags and defects in their new build properties."

A customer satisfaction survey carried out by Home Builders Federation (HBF) and the National House Building Council (NHBC) found 99pc of 60,955 respondents reported snags to builders in 2017/18, which has increased from 93pc in 2013/14.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis slammed the industry. He said: "There's little doubt that the current house-building system is failing families.

"It's producing high-priced, poor quality homes at the same time fat cat developers and landowners are given government sweeteners and making huge profits."

He criticised the NHBC - the biggest warranty and insurance provider for new homes in the UK - for not providing adequate protection for house buyers and questioned its independence.

But the NHBC denied this, with a spokesman saying: "NHBC operates to robust, independent and transparent governance practices and is committed to protecting homeowners and raising the standard of new homes in the UK."

A campaign has also been launched for homebuyers to hold back a percentage of the cost of a house until all of the problems are fixed.

Spearheaded by the Homeowners Alliance, it calls for homeowners to be able to keep at least 2.5pc of the purchase price of their new build home for six months, to give time for snags to be rectified.

Rosemary Bartlett's new build home in Swanton Morley looks impressive from the outside, but she is battling to rectify problems on the inside. Picture: ArchantRosemary Bartlett's new build home in Swanton Morley looks impressive from the outside, but she is battling to rectify problems on the inside. Picture: Archant

- £150 compensation for two years of problems

Two years after spending her life savings on a £336,000 new-build home, a single mother has been told she will have to move out so the house can be fixed.

But she has been offered only £150 compensation, which she described as an "insult".

And after a date was arranged for the temporary move, Heidi Walker, 39, was left in the lurch when homebuilder Avant Homes failed to book accommodation for her and her 11-year-old son.

Mind the gap. The doors from the kitchen through to the lounge at Rosemary Bartlett's Hopkins Home in Swanton Morley. Picture: ArchantMind the gap. The doors from the kitchen through to the lounge at Rosemary Bartlett's Hopkins Home in Swanton Morley. Picture: Archant

Ms Walker bought the four-bedroom house at the Heathfields development site in Horseshoe Road, Hethersett, in 2017 and soon made a list of defects.

These so-called snags are seemingly small but numerous - they could be as minor as misaligned kitchen tiles and a leaky tap or as serious as structural instability or missing insulation.

Ms Walker made a list of nearly 30 defects for Avant Homes to rectify in July 2017.

This included a dip in her garden, a missing side gate, stiff door handles, lifting tiles, plucked carpets and splattered paint on the skirting board.

Cracks have been appearing in Rosemary Bartlett's new build home in Swanton Morley almost as soon as she moved in. Picture: ArchantCracks have been appearing in Rosemary Bartlett's new build home in Swanton Morley almost as soon as she moved in. Picture: Archant

"It's not so much the quality that is the problem, it's the way things are installed and how it's left," Ms Walker said.

A spokesman from Avant Homes said: "We have been in regular dialogue with Ms Walker regarding the situation and are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible."

Ms Walker said most of the minor snags had been fixed while the contractors were still on site, but she has been fighting with Avant Homes for two years to fix her kitchen floor and continues to do so.

A ridge runs across the tiles in the kitchen/dining area where builders had accidentally started building a wall before realising their mistake.

Cracks have been appearing in Rosemary Bartlett's new build home in Swanton Morley almost as soon as she moved in. Picture: ArchantCracks have been appearing in Rosemary Bartlett's new build home in Swanton Morley almost as soon as she moved in. Picture: Archant

In May, she was told by Avant Homes she will be placed into temporary accommodation on June 3 for a week in order for remedial works to be carried out.

But on move-out day, Ms Walker's accommodation had not been booked despite two builders turning up at her door to take away her furniture.

"Communication with Avant Homes has been pretty atrocious, I have just been fobbed off," she said.

But neighbour Steve Burdett, 29, said he was surprised people have had issues with getting hold of Avant Homes, which he described as a "seamless process".

Rosemary Bartlett did not want a fireplace or wood burner, but having got one she hoped it would at least be better constructed than this. Picture: ArchantRosemary Bartlett did not want a fireplace or wood burner, but having got one she hoped it would at least be better constructed than this. Picture: Archant

Mr Burdett, who is selling his house, said there were just as many people at the Heathfields development site that experienced minimal to no issues with their homes.

He said that while he did find snags in his home when he moved in four-and-a-half years ago, they were fixed with little fuss.

"I had a really good experience," Mr Burdett said. "I had small problems with my shower and front door but they [Avant Homes] were very responsive."

- Widow's long wait for help with new-build defects

After the death of her husband of nearly 60 years, Rosemary Bartlett hoped moving into a new home would give her comfort for the remainder of her life.

But after two years in her Hopkins Home property, the 83-year old said she is still waiting for snags to be fixed.

Hopkins Homes said problems were being resolved and apologised to Mrs Bartlett for the delay at the £420,000 house.

She moved in to the house on Long Mews, Swanton Morley in June 2017.

But since then she has been trying to get in touch with Hopkins Homes to fix the gaps around the fireplace, as well as look at her patio door which she could not lock.

While her patio doors were fixed in June she has been told her fireplace will be set right in August.

"I'm 83, I don't want all this fuss," she said.

Lee Barnard, director of Hopkins Homes, said: "At Hopkins Homes, we have a dedicated team in place to resolve these matters promptly and also operate a stringent quality assurance system to ensure we deliver a consistently high standard of finished home across all of our developments.

"In Mrs Bartlett's case, we did offer good service previously, but accept on this final occasion the speed of our response did not live up to our own high standards and we wrote and apologised to her for this. All the outstanding items have now been addressed."

On Sunday: More people tell their tales of woe, plus what are your rights as a buyer?

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