Dry rot hell at luxury newly-built (but long delayed) Exeter home

“Caveat emptor” from Grenadier – Owl

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

A prestigious development of a former private school into luxury homes has been hailed ‘a nightmare’ by a homeowner who says he has been left to foot a £50,000 dry rot bill.

Simon Firth and his family were the first to move into St Margaret’s Residence in St Leonard’s in September 2019, and ever since he says they have endured numerous problems with their four-bedroom property.

Exeter-based developer Grenadier was granted planning permission for the site to be turned into housing in 2014. However, it took years before it finally started work to build an ‘exclusive development’ of 35 apartments and four townhouses with the first phase finally ready in late 2019.

Just a month after moving into their three-storey home, Simon says the ground floor flooded when its main water inlet disconnected. Simon claims the fault was due to it not being fitted properly and there was no stopcock inside the property to initially stem the flow of the water.

The damage and issue was rectified and paid for by Grenadier but three weeks after the incident during a spell of heavy rainfall, water began seeping in through the front walls of all floors of the property.

Grenadier rendered the whole property to solve the problem but then had to return to the property when there were further problems with its pipework.

A series of problems have been encountered by the first family who moved into St Margaret's Residence in Exeter

A series of problems have been encountered by the first family who moved into St Margaret’s Residence in Exeter (Image: Simon Firth)

Simon, a father-of-two, says that holes in the walls still remain since and form part of a snagging list that remains unsolved.

However, the biggest issue with the property that came to light earlier this year is dry rot.

Simon said: “The developers were given a quote of £50,000 to put it right but then another issue came to light; the developer’s insurance – which should have been in place – was never activated as they did not provide the right documents to the insurance company.

“I don’t think it would have covered dry rot anyway. We were told to sort it out through our insurance, but we were reliant on the developer’s insurance and the chances are it wouldn’t have covered it anyway.

“I’m having to look into getting the money to do it ourselves because the developer has now completely walked away from us as is giving us no support whatsoever.

The damaged ceiling of Simon Firth's home at St Margarets Residence in Exeter

The damaged ceiling of Simon Firth’s home at St Margarets Residence in Exeter (Image: Simon Firth)

“It’s a lovely property, but there have been major issues that don’t just arrive overnight and they are not cheap houses. Grenadier is award-winning but has offered no contribution to it.

“The experts say the dry rot has been there for a while. It needs water to develop and we have had quite a lot of that in the property in the last two years.

“Grenadier’s legal team do not think they have legal liability and we will have to test that, but it will take months, perhaps years. We think they at least have a moral liability to help given the circumstances.”

In hindsight, Simon says he does have some regrets.

He said: “We did not have a full structural survey when buying our home. Was that a mistake? Probably yes because it might have picked up some of the issues we have experienced.”

St Margaret’s Residences was recently awarded Residential Development of the Year and Grenadier was named Best Developer 2021 at the Exeter Property Awards. It recently achieved a UK First for achieving an Energy Performance Certification (EPC) ‘A’ on a Grade II listed building.

A spokesperson for Grenadier said: “At Grenadier we pride ourselves on providing sustainable, high-quality homes with exceptional customer service.

“As for any well-established property developer, we provide snagging services and work to fulfil these quickly.

“Grenadier continues working closely with the property residents to support them with snagging.”

Originally built as single houses, the site was acquired by St Margaret’s and converted into a school in the 1920s.

The Grade II listed building has been redeveloped into new energy-efficient homes with an emphasis on preserving and restoring features within the buildings such as elegant staircases, old marble fireplaces, Edwardian stained-glass windows and ornate ironwork banisters.