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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

New-build homebuyer fights back against a system that’s heavily stacked against him

Below par new-build standards are unfortunately a common occurrence in the market today, but one homebuyer is fighting to ensure all hard-working, new-build home buyers receive the property they deserve.

Following his poor experience of buying a home near Cambridge that was built full of snags and defects by the development subsidiary of Cambridge based CHS Group, homebuyer John Gaskell has launched a CrowdJustice campaign to help him hold the developer to account.

Mr Gaskell has already started a Homebuyer’s Fightback initiative that has received the backing of local MP Anthony Browne, Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, consumer group HomeOwners Alliance, and the former Tory MP Oliver Colvile, who chaired the 2016 All Party Parliamentary Investigation into the problems with the new-build construction sector.

John’s Story

John explained he had bought the new-build home in anticipation of retirement in a few years’ time from a local developer he thought could be relied on to deliver a house that had been built to a professional standard, particularly given its CEO, Nigel Howlett, claims that his organisation works to ‘exacting standards’.

Prior to completion, Mr Gaskell had an independent snagging & defects inspector check the property, which identified around 110 issues.

Mr Gaskell commented:

“Frankly, I was shocked by the 110 problems that had been revealed. However, the snagging inspector said the defects could be remedied relatively easily which provided some comfort that I would soon have a house that was up to standard.”

After reading a copy of the report, Mr Howlett agreed the workmanship had been poor but said his company would stand behind the quality of their property and commit to putting things right, which initially they did.

However, the real problems began after Mr Gaskell and his wife had moved into their new property when far more significant issues emerged.

Mr Gaskell continued:

“Once we had parted with our money and started living in the property, it became increasingly clear that the workmanship had been systemically poor and the initial faults discovered were just the tip of the iceberg. Further defects included significant problems with the underfloor heating system, while in one area thermal imaging revealed they hadn’t even fitted the pipes. Unsuitable floor coverings had been used, and some wiring infrastructure and electrical components had not been fitted. There were plumbing issues and problems with the hot water system. Kitchen units had been badly fitted, toilet seats fell-off and it took four decorators three days to just get things to a basic standard. Things were so bad, my wife and I had to take a holiday over Christmas and the New Year just to get over the experience, rather than celebrating in our new home with friends and family.

I then had an ongoing tortuous struggle to get the developer to pay over adequate compensation to meet the market costs of professional remediation. However, even after they agreed to pay reasonable market-based compensation, on one occasion I had to use the small claims court to get them to pay over an agreed amount, a second time to recover the service charge taken from my bank account for communal gardening they had not done. To rub salt in the wound, CHS is now increasing its service charges by 30%.”

After a year of ongoing issues, Mr Gaskell asked HouseScan Ltd to undertake a second detailed investigation into the property, which did not make for pretty reading.

HouseScan identified a further 43 problems, including significant and expensive issues relating to defective pathways and driveway, problems with the garage and drainage issues. Mr Gaskell has also been told that despite having been signed-off by building control, his home fails to comply with Part M disability access building regulations, as well as having problems with insulation and thermal ingress.

View the original snagging report for Mr Gaskell’s home here:

Founder and Managing Director of HouseScan, Harry Yates, commented:

“During Mr Gaskell’s inspection a number of issues were noticed that fell short of building regulations and the warranty providers own technical standards. Although we frequently deal with customers who have good experiences, we all too often see developers and warranty providers under-delivering on their promises and duty of care and this is most certainly the case where Mr Gaskell’s home is concerned.”

Despite Mr Howlett referring to the problems as ‘ largely cosmetic’, the estimated cost of rectifying the outstanding defects with Mr Gaskell’s property is estimated at £35,000 to £45,000. A cost the developer appears unwilling to cover. This figure rises to over £50,000 if settled issues are included.

“Given the nature of the problems and amounts needed to put things right, it is self-evident the issues cannot be largely cosmetic as Mr Howlett claimed in the Sunday Times. I also think it very unhelpful that Mr Howlett seems to be trying to spin things by implying I am ambulance-chasing, especially after his co-director asked me to obtain market estimates for how much it will cost to put things right, which is exactly what I did.”

Mr Gaskell went on to say that after CEO, Nigel Howlett, understood the significant costs involved he changed tack, seeming wanting to hide behind the small print and language of exclusion and limited defect cover offered under the Premier Guarantee’.

“I referred the matter to Premier’s dispute resolution service last year to try and resolve matters.

However, given the limitations of that process, and now knowing that APPG’s Report that on average ⅔ of defects on new build on warranties are not covered, it seems CHS has chosen to try and hide behind their legal team.

They do so knowing full-well that the average homebuyer can ill-afford to fight them due to the complications and costs of doing so. I sincerely hope I am wrong as I just want things to be done properly as they should have been at outset and to get my life back”.

John went on to explain that the lack of legal and regulatory protections available to new-build homebuyers means that developers and housebuilders can exploit their market power to leave hard-working buyers hung-out to dry.

Mr Gaskell Continued:

“It is a shockingly bad situation when the law generally gives more protections to someone that buys a toaster or a computer than when they invest their life savings in a new-build home”

“ My CrowdJustice campaign is about much more than my individual circumstances. It is about defending the principle that all new-build homebuyers should expect defect-free safe homes, built to a professional standard which fully meet all the regulations, freeholders, and leaseholders alike. When developers and housebuilders fail to deliver, they should put things right with minimum distress and delay. I struggle to see how that simple request conflicts with Mr Howlett’s claim that his organisation should deliver exacting standards.”


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