“Bovis homebuyers offered ‘cash in return for positive feedback’, investigation reveals”

“Homebuilding firm Bovis Homes is at the centre of a new row after an investigation by The Independent found that some customers had allegedly been offered rewards in return for completing positive satisfaction surveys.
Last year the company was awarded a 2-star rating by the House Builders Federation after a well-documented series of failings that left customers living in faulty homes.

Now, nine homebuyers have said that Bovis representatives offered them rewards if they agreed to fill in the HBF customer satisfaction form, the results of which are used to inform the annual ratings.

Five customers say the incentives were offered in return for positive feedback, something Bovis adamantly denies.

The homebuyers spoken to by The Independent bought their properties at different Bovis developments between 2016 and 2018.

Charlotte and Michael Kenton, who purchased their home in Bedfordshire in June 2016, claimed their site manager offered them high street vouchers in return for positive feedback.

“He said it was directly linked to his bonus so if we were happy with the sales process we should give him 5 stars and he could ‘make it worth our while,” they said.

Another couple claimed a Bovis employee offered free turf and John Lewis vouchers in December 2017 if they gave good feedback on the HBF survey or if they let the Bovis sales representatives fill in the form themselves.

In a further example, a homebuyer who bought her property in Oxfordshire in January 2017, said she was offered vouchers if she gave a positive response to the question of whether she would recommend Bovis to a friend.

She said: “We filled out the [HBF/NHBC] survey, gave 1 star at most, but we were told we would be given £500 worth of vouchers if we recommended Bovis to a friend.”

Another homebuyer, who wished to remain anonymous, said her site manager told her in February 2017 he would extend her patio for her if she gave him a good review.

She told The Independent: “I was advised by the site manager that the feedback form was very important and if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours… he intimated that he would contribute towards turning a side garden into an extra parking spot if we looked after each other…”

In another instance, in February this year, a Bovis site manager sent a customer an email – seen by The Independent – confirming that the company would pay a month’s worth of household bills but appeared to require her to complete the HBF survey before sending copies of her bills.

The buyer was sent a cheque for more than £1,000 after she completed the survey.

The Independent understands that Bovis had advised the customer that the payment was compensation for inconvenience after the homebuyer’s kitchen was damaged (and not related to the survey).

Four other homebuyers, who have spoken to The Independent on condition of anonymity, were allegedly offered bottles of champagne, chocolates or contributions towards remedial work if they agreed to complete the survey.

Bovis stated that up until May 2016, it ran a programme offering customers incentives to complete feedback forms – irrespective of whether the response was positive or negative – but said the practice had been stopped.

Five of the nine homebuyers spoken to by The Independent claim they were offered incentives after Bovis told its representatives to change the policy.

HBF’s national survey of housebuilders was launched in 2005 in response to recommendations in the Barker Review of Housing in 2004 and results determine a house builder’s annual rating. Since 2013, ratings are based on just the one question: ‘Would you recommend your builder to a friend?’

In a statement, Bovis said it had made significant changes to its build quality and customer service, which had transformed the company. It added that it had a strict policy with regards to the HBF customer survey.

A spokesman said: “Currently more than 87 per cent of our customers across the country would recommend us to friends and family, representing a 30 percentage point improvement on where we were at the same time last year.

“There are strict rules around the management of the HBF customer survey and we are absolutely committed to adhering to those.

“In the current survey year, which started on 1 October 2017, we have so far received more than 740 surveys, and around 87 per cent of those returned would recommend us to family or friends.

“If there is any evidence that any one of those hundreds of positive responses – or any from previous years – were not returned according to the rules, then we would wish to see that evidence and we would investigate it thoroughly.”

In relation to the case in which £1,000 of a homebuyer’s bills had been paid, Bovis said it was investigating the claim that payment had been conditional on the customer completing her feedback form.

A spokesman said: “On this point, we are currently investigating one claim made by a customer to The Independent, where it appears that our processes and procedures have not been followed and the colleague involved has been removed from site while we make further enquiries.”

When new CEO Greg Fitzgerald took charge of Bovis – after the resignation of David Ritchie in January 2017 – he promised to ensure that the house builder was no longer “handing over crap or incomplete houses to customers”.

Mr Fitzgerald, who made the statement after Bovis was found to have been paying homebuyers as much as £3,000 to move into unfinished homes in a failed attempt to reach an ambitious target of completing 4,131 houses by the end of the financial year, served six years as a company director for the National House Builders Council, the UK’s main home construction warranty provider, prior to his appointment.

However, The Independent has been told by several homebuyers that problems with quality remain.

Allison Briggs, 49, said that her hi-spec washing machine was broken on the day she moved into her property on a development in April 2017.

When Bovis later replaced it, she claimed the whole house vibrated when was the washing machine was on.

She told The Independent: “I am living in a Bovis nightmare. I wish I could walk away.”

Another, who bought their property in January 2017, said they had experienced problems immediately. But when they approached Bovis, the house builder allegedly told them the house being situated on a corner caused the issues.

They told The Independent: “We raised the issue again with Bovis and yet again we were told every excuse possible.”

In a statement, Bovis said: “We are committed to continuing to drive through these improvements in our business and to deal with any customer issues by our home warranty.

In those rare instances where items might be disputed, then we welcome the involvement of external agencies, such as the NHBC, to objectively assess the issues, and we are committed to meeting all of our obligations in these instances.”

“We apologise to any customer who did not move into the home they deserved in the past, but we are concerned that using isolated historic case studies as a reflection of our current performance misrepresents the business and will have a negative impact for those thousands of satisfied Bovis Homes customers who are not being contacted by the media for their experiences of buying a new-build home.”

Buyers across the UK claim the house builder sells properties that are “not fit for purpose”, with some residents reporting issues relating to insulation, flooding, structural issues and rendering.

A Facebook group called Bovis Homes Victim Group has grown to more than 3,000 members and common complaints among them are a lack of sound insulation, incorrect appliances, dented doors, flooding and thermal issues.

A number of disgruntled homeowners have reached settlements with Bovis, the terms of which are sometimes protected by non-disclosure agreements.

Bovis said: “We want open and honest feedback – positive and negative – from all of our customers so that we can build on the major improvements we have driven through the business and further enhance the experience of buying a Bovis Home.”

Dave Howard, a founder of the group, which operates the domain http://www.bovishomesvictimsgroup.co.uk and the owner of a £400,000 home in Oxfordshire, said he continues to work closely with the firm.

“We continue to attempt to work constructively with Bovis Homes as members of its Homebuyers Panel but have yet to detect any noticeable improvement in either build quality or customer service.

Obviously, from both our perspective and that of our members, this is extremely disappointing.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/bovis-homebuyers-cash-property-newbuilds-housing-developers-a8330766.html

“Buyers in despair at badly built new homes” [particularly Bovis]

“One of the country’s biggest housebuilders is misleading buyers and “deliberately” delaying essential repairs to poorly built homes, according to an investigation by the Times. Bovis Homes, which builds about 3,500 properties a year, is also the only national builder to have been awarded a two-star rating out of five in the Home Builders Federation’s annual customer satisfaction survey for the year ending September 2017, meaning that between 30-40 per cent of customers would not recommend the company to a friend.”

Source:
Times p1, Sun p29

Bovis pays out £10.5 m to repair sub-standard homes

“Profits at Bovis slumped last year after the housebuilder was forced to spend millions of pounds repairing poorly-built homes and fending off takeover attempts by rivals Galliford Try and Redrow.

The company was criticised after rushing the construction of some properties and offering customers cash to move into unfinished houses, some of which had plumbing and electrical problems.

The scandal has so far forced it to spend £10.5m on repairs, including £3.5m in 2017. Other one-off costs last year included £4m for restructuring and £2.8m on advisory fees as it tried to see off the takeover bids.

The charges dragged down Bovis’s annual pre-tax profits, which fell 26pc to £114m. Revenues dipped 3pc to around £1bn, despite a 7pc hike in its average selling price to £272,000.

The housebuilder’s previous chief executive David Ritchie resigned last January, just days before the quality scandal came to light, after Bovis was forced to issue a profit warning because it had struggled to build as many homes as expected in 2016. …”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/03/01/bovis-profits-slump-35m-payout-botched-homes/

“Angry homebuyers plan class-action lawsuit against Bovis”

One of the examples cited in the article is from Cranbrook. See last paragraph of this post. Though most problems in this area seem to centre on Axminster.

Bovis Homes, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, faces a potential class-action lawsuit from a group of buyers who accuse it of selling houses riddled with defects.

Puneet Verma bought a five-bedroom house with his wife for £485,000 in Milton Keynes two years ago but says he still has a list of 120 snags. He is now consulting two law firms, Leigh Day and Slater & Gordon, about taking group action.

“I have had a survey done by a chartered surveyor that categorically states the workmanship is extremely poor and that Bovis is not in compliance with building regulations,” Verma says. “Bovis has treated, and continues to treat, its customers appallingly and now the only way to get our problems resolved is to take legal action.”

Verma is aiming to raise a £100,000 fund through a £100 contribution per homeowner, assuming 1,000 of the 2,500-strong Bovis Homes Victims group on Facebook sign up.

It has been almost a year since the housebuilder issued a profit warning and was accused of paying thousands of pounds in cash incentives to get buyers to move into unfinished homes. As the scandal widened, the company set aside £7m to fix defects and appointed a new chief executive.

A year on, some Bovis homeowners say they will be spending Christmas in houses that are riddled with faults, including leaks, moving and creaking floors, lack of insulation and sewage backups, as well coping with shoddy workmanship.

Ian Tyler, the chairman of Bovis, apologised to buyers in May for “letting them down” and admitted the firm had been cutting corners to hit ambitious targets. The company says it slowed production to iron out build problems, retrained sales staff and set up an advisory homebuyers panel, which has met once.

Dave Howard, who set up the Facebook group with his wife, Ann, and who sits on the panel, doubts whether Bovis has made any progress on improving build standards and customer service. He claims homeowners who report problems are being referred to the National House Building Council (NHBC), the standard-setting body and main home construction warranty provider for new-builds in the UK. But in the first two years after purchase the housebuilder is responsible for rectifying defects.

“We have had constructive contact with the new customer experience director, but there are too many people hitting brick walls with Bovis and NHBC,” Howard says. “Some new customers have had better experiences but that seems to have slipped too.”

Bovis says: “We have made significant changes to how we operate in 2017 and a growing majority of our customers would now recommend us to family and friends.

“We remain determined to make things right for customers who raise warranty items and apologise to those to whom we have not previously delivered the high levels of quality and service they rightly expected.” …”

[The article concludes with several examples of bad workmanship in various parts of the country including this one] …

Pete Oldham and his wife, a retired couple, bought a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Cranbrook, Devon, for £234,995 in December 2015. “All the floors move,” Oldham says. “When you walk into a room the furniture moves. They haven’t fitted things properly but are in denial.” He says the floor joists should be 400mm apart, not 600mm. There has been a breakdown in communication with Bovis and he has been referred to NHBC.”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/dec/09/bovis-homebuyers-class-action-lawsuit-property-defects

Parish wants better-designed new homes – too late for Axminster!

Er, he seems to not have spoken out in Axminster which is in his constituency, where problems with new housing abounds! Owl noted it here:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/12/23/axminster-and-cranbrook-slums-of-the-future-says-councillor-hull-whilst-councillor-moulding-says-nothing/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/09/22/poor-quality-of-new-housing-in-axminster/

“ …Not only do we need traditional designs in keeping with the natural built environment, we a need a new homes Ombudsman to focus on complaints with new build homes. The fact the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, has backed this proposal – will be welcome news to hundreds of thousands of new housing residents in the coming years. It’s vital we get both the design and quality of these new homes right – because we won’t get a second chance. …”

http://www.devonlive.com/news/news-opinion/its-vital-design-quality-new-879515

Stable … horse …

“Majority of affordable homes lost due to legal loophole exploited by developers, show figures”

Well, we all know about this in East Devon where one of the UK’s mega-rich developers – Bovis – say they are too poor to provide “affordable housing in Axminster:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/08/14/developer-bovis-too-poor-to-finish-axminster-estate-and-steep-slopes-came-as-a-surprise-and-owl-says-i-told-you/

and Seaton:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/08/15/bovis-too-poor-to-buld-affordable-homes-in-seaton-yet/

“Property developers are dodging their commitment to building thousands of affordable homes each year due to a legal loophole, new research has revealed.

Figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests show developers have sidestepped local planning policy to avoid building 79 per cent of social homes they had initially committed to, due to a legal loophole called a “viability assessment”.

A sample of 11 local authorities across nine cities in England shows developers were able to first win planning permission by promising to build a required number of affordable homes, but later go back to the council to say they can no longer honour the pledge because it would reduce their profit margin. …”

… The research, carried out by the housing charity Shelter, reveals that viability is used most frequently on larger developments, which are generally managed by the country’s biggest developers.

It shows that the worst affected areas were Manchester, Birmingham and parts of London, where viability was used to reduce the affordable housing to less than 1 per cent of homes being built.” …

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/affordable-homes-majority-lost-legal-loophole-developers-shelter-a8029601.html

Telegraph: “Our new Bovis home is falling apart and our warranty is worthless’ “

Buying a new home from Bovis? Best read this first.

“Johanna Leonard was set to live the retirement dream. After 35 years the 57-year-old finance worker sold her north London home and bought in the small town of Chudleigh, Devon, with far-reaching views over Dartmoor.

The five-bedroom, three-storey property was part of a 48-strong scheme called Tors Reach, completed in 2015 by Bovis, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders.

But Ms Leonard’s bucolic fantasy rapidly crumbled. She is about to spend her third winter in a cold house with a damp lower ground floor and faulty heating system. She has suffered a hotchpotch of building mistakes, bad practice and shortcuts, with brickwork scuffed by scaffolding, metal screws rammed into plastic pipes and gaps between the guttering and the outside wall that could allow water and insects to creep in.

The surface problems were apparent as soon as she moved in. “Doors weren’t shutting properly, including the front door, the garden wasn’t turfed, and it was very badly painted, but the Bovis site manager just told me to ‘make a list’,” Ms Leonard said.

She had bought off-plan but was reassured by the Buildmark warranty issued by the National House Building Council (NHBC).

The warranty – which is presented as a regulatory stamp of approval for the quality of most of Britain’s newbuild homes – dictates that any structural problems found in the first two years will be dealt with by the builder. From years three to 10 the NHBC takes over repairs.

When relations turned sour with Bovis Ms Leonard turned to the NHBC, which describes itself as the “leading standard setter for new homes”. Far from having her building defects rectified, however, she found her living conditions deteriorating further.

The NHBC first investigated Ms Leonard’s home in July 2016 after Bovis washed its hands of the case and agreed that there were 60 issues to be resolved. The first set included repair work to substandard brickwork using the NHBC’s contractor. But Ms Leonard said: “Due to poor workmanship I had to advise the NHBC that I no longer wanted them in my house. The brickwork looked better before they started to make good the damage.”

More repairs were agreed a month later. An NHBC report showed that coping stones on the balcony were marked and stained and very untidy in appearance. It wasn’t until April 2017 that the NHBC took the coping stones away and removed the glass barrier from the balcony. The stones and the barrier have not been replaced. “It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said Joe Ward, her ex-husband. Rather than a vista of rolling countryside, Ms Leonard now looks out over abandoned scaffolding.

“There are a lot of defects in my home and both the speed and skill of the NHBC contractors leave everything to be desired,” she said. “My health has been affected by this experience, I am on antidepressants and sleeping pills and have had counselling. I feel terribly let down by the whole rotten newbuild and regulatory system. The NHBC allowed a home with breaches of building regulations to be put on the market and sold.”

The public impression that the NHBC, which has 80pc of the warranty market, is an ombudsman of quality rather than an insurance company is compounded by the marketing of developers such as Taylor Wimpey. “The NHBC was established over 60 years ago and is the independent regulator for the new homes industry,” the firm’s website read until this summer, when the word “regulator” was suddenly dropped.

Despite its own branding as “dedicated to housebuilding standards”, the insurance mutual bounces culpability back to the builder. “Ultimately the quality of new homes is the responsibility of builders,” it said. “Our priority is to help builders minimise defects in the homes they build and to enable us to provide the 10-year Buildmark warranty to help when problems emerge.”

In a written statement apologising to Ms Leonard the NHBC said: “There are rare circumstances where complex cases can take longer to resolve than we would wish and unfortunately there have been delays in carrying out repairs. It is also clear that some of the remedial works have not been carried out to the high standards we expect of our contractors.”

Maria Miller, the MP for Basingstoke and vice chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the excellence of the built environment, has questioned both the role of the NHBC and its relationship with the construction industry.

“The warranty system is broken and the NHBC has failed the consumer year after year, leaving some buyers dissatisfied with the biggest purchase of their life. The only way to resolve a dispute now is to get an MP involved. We need to rectify the balance of power between customer and construction industry,” she said.

The Conservative MP called for a new ombudsman to regulate the warranty industry. Her concern followed reports this summer that payments flowed between developers and the NHBC.

The most significant of these “premium refunds” was £2.7m to one developer in 2012, while last year the biggest single payment was £750,000. This calls into question the independence of the warranty system, especially when nearly a fifth of the members of the NHBC governing council are also on the board of builders such as Bovis and Barratt.

The NHBC said premium refunds were a way to reward a developer’s good claims history and were not uncommon in the insurance industry.

Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance, said: “There is a definite requirement for a new homes ombudsman or regulator that would act in the best interest of buyers – not the industry – to ensure that consumers are protected and our homes meet the standard that is expected.”

This month the NHBC offered Ms Leonard a £10,000 cash payment to fix the outstanding defects herself. But she said: “The only offer I will accept is for Bovis or the NHBC to buy back my home. For every mistake we uncover there are more behind it and repair costs could escalate quickly.”

A structural engineer agreed, saying: “If the site manager has allowed some of these errors, what else has been done or not done? There are a lot of hidden aspects to construction that will show over time.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/uk/new-bovis-home-falling-apart-warranty-worthless/