The man who got Persimmon to rebuild his new house

A man was left so frustrated by the poor finish on his new build home, he forced Persimmon to tear down the walls and rebuild them from scratch.

Laura Clements  www.walesonline.co.uk

Andrew Higgs bought his five-bedroom family home in June 2019 but was so disappointed in the standard of workmanship he launched into a battle with the house-builder.

He endured months of negotiations before the national firm moved him and his young family into temporary accommodation while it replaced every single external brick.

Mr Higgs said problems started appearing from the day he moved in to his Charles Church house in Old St Mellons, Cardiff with his wife and two children, aged two and five.

From the off, Mr Higgs made his dissatisfaction known to Charles Church, which is an upmarket house builder owned by Persimmon, but says he was repeatedly fobbed off.

“There was a long list of snags from day one and each week we would notice additional issues of poor workmanship,” Mr Higgs explained.

While some of the issues were reworked “multiple times”, Mr Higgs said it took more than a year of discussions before Charles Church agreed to knock the walls down and rebuild them brick by brick.

“Our main concern was the external brickwork which we felt was of a very poor standard aesthetically,” Mr Higgs said. It included inconsistent mortar joints, chipped and damaged bricks and wonky mortar beds.

The full list of issues he claims ran into the hundreds, including visible plasterboard joints, cracks appearing in the walls and ceilings, damaged roof joists and drainage issues to the front garden.

It was only after contacting one of the directors directly that Mr Higgs was able to get any response, claimed the 41-year-old dad of two.

Charles Church commissioned an independent survey by CD Grey and Mr Higgs walked the director for Charles Church East Wales around his home pointing out the outstanding issues.

While the house builder confirmed many of the issues, Mr Higgs says it “downplayed” them. The CD Grey report said that while there was no indication of any structural movement there were notable aesthetic issues.

“They did accept all the issues and looked to get them addressed but the brickwork I felt was so poor I insisted it all be replaced in line with building codes of practice,” Mr Higgs said.

“Eventually they agreed to replace all four external walls or potentially compensate.”

Even so, despite the verbal agreement, it took several months before builders arrived on site to begin the reconstruction. Even then, Charles Church insisted on a further survey, this time from the NHBC – the National House Building Council.

Mr Higgs’ concerns were confirmed again and the report, carried out in May 2020, advised repairing the defects.

“There are areas where the builder hasn’t complied with all of our Technical Requirements,” it said, although it fell short of instructing a complete rebuild.

Mr Higgs was insistent: “I kept on and would not back down on the agreement that was previously made, replace the walls and rebuild as per the codes of practice.

“A number of internal rework snags they had already done were of a poor quality and we were extremely reluctant to allow partial patch repairs to the external walls, especially when they already agreed previously.”

Eventually, Charles Church backed down and agreed to replace all four external walls in October 2020. In a letter sent to Mr Higgs, it said despite his “unreasonable” request, they would rebuild all four walls and elevations. The action had been agreed as a “gesture of goodwill” it added.

Exhausted from all the negotiations, Mr Higgs instructed a solicitor to manage proceedings. While Persimmon agreed to find the family alternative accommodation and commissioned Fox Moving and Storage to manage the temporary move, Mr Higgs says it was far from smooth.

“During the pandemic I had to move my young family out of our home,” It was just weeks before Christmas and Mr Higgs was desperate to get his family back home for the festive period.

“We were issued a six-week completion date, which was then pushed out to eight weeks, then we were notified that all works was complete on December 1 but in fact was nowhere near complete and Fox refused to move items back until December 5,” Mr Higgs said.

When they did eventually get home, Mr Higgs claims the construction work had led to damage throughout his property, including his carpets, his CCTV cameras, the alarm system and the large family fridge freezer.

Persimmon reimbursed the family for the alleged damage but Mr Higgs says his CCTV cameras captured workers for Fox Moving and Storage being careless with his property and taking personal military belongings out of boxes.

Fox Moving and Storage said it had spoken to one of its young porters, who was told his behaviour was “careless” and “not in keeping” with its standards of customer care.

It denied any breach of confidentiality or privacy and said: “There were no damages attributed to Fox and no insurance claim was made, confirming this position. In our view this confirms a careful and professional service was performed in the moving of hundreds of items of household furniture and effects in two separate phases.”

It added it had examined the CCTV and Mr Higgs’ allegations were unsubstantiated. It said: “Fragile items were not thrown down the stairs. The loft ladder was flimsy and therefore items were passed and sometimes dropped to the floor. The young porter could be accused of not being careful and there is a degree of poor manual handling.

“The young porter was interviewed and told his behaviour was careless and not in keeping with our high standards of customer care.

“A written apology was made directly to Mr Higgs.”

It took several weeks for Persimmon to take the old walls down and rebuild them to a better standard (Image: Andrew Higgs)

Every single external brick was replaced (Image: Andrew Higgs)

Mr Higgs is adamant some issues remain “outstanding” to this day.

“Having returned we’ve noticed most cracking issues have reappeared and are now suspicious there may be movement occurring with the timber frames,” he said.

In a letter to Mr Higgs after the works had been completed, Persimmon’s legal team wrote: “I can confirm all minor snagging issues you have raised have been noted by the site team already and are in hand. The cracking you report appears to be entirely normal settlement and are to be attended to shortly.

“With regard dates for the expected completion of works, it is not unreasonable for those to be extended, on notice to you due to matters beyond our control. Communication with you remained open, you were always informed of the anticipated dates and the progress of works which were carried out on your insistence. You remained in alternative accommodation at our cost for the duration.”

“I own two local businesses,” he said. “If I treated my customers the way Persimmon do I would be out of business within a week.

“If you purchase a new product you expect it to be of an acceptable standard. We were expecting our new build Charles Church house to be of a high standard but it has taken 18 months to get it to an acceptable standard.

“My family has endured immense stress and upheaval over the past 18 months, no thanks to having to move home during the pandemic and be given two completion dates that were not honoured.

“Persimmon repeatedly remind us we are having ‘gestures of goodwill’ but these are all issues that should have been right in the first place.”

A spokesman for Charles Church East Wales said: “We have been in constant dialogue with Mr Higgs to try to address his concerns. We have at all times endeavoured to ensure Mr Higgs was happy with his home. We therefore agreed with him that we would go beyond the specific actions identified by the independent assessment of the property to resolve the situation.

“We will continue to liaise with Mr Higgs through his solicitor and remain committed to ensuring all customers are pleased with their homes.”