“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/

Bovis: another “poor” developer upping dividends

“The City gave the thumbs-up to new boss Greg Fitzgerald’s “small is beautiful” turnaround plans for struggling Bovis Homes on Thursday, marking the shares up 8% despite a slump in first-half profits.

Bovis sacked its previous chief executive David Ritchie in January after profit warnings and controversy over “bribes” for buyers to move into barely finished homes — triggering opportunisitic takeover bids from rivals Redrow and Galliford Try.

Fitzgerald’s medicine involves rebuilding the business’s scarred reputation with customers and scaling back its growth plans, now aiming to sell 4000 homes a year instead of 6000 by 2020.

The firm has also shed 120 jobs to cut costs by merging two of its regional businesses.

But the payouts are getting bigger, with investors in line for £180 million in special dividends, funded by cutting exposure and investment on its larger sites, and selling some developments.

The ordinary dividend is jacked up 5% this year, with the promise of an extra 20% in 2018.

Shares jumped 8% or 85.7p to 1140p despite a 31% slide in profits to £42.7 million in the first half of the year.

The ex-Galliford boss, who took over in April, said the housebuilder’s woes were “very fixable”.

He said: “I’ve got a great hand of cards, we’ve just got to play that hand of cards better than we have in the past.

“Our strategy represents the minimal risk for the maximum shareholder return. Where Bovis is at the moment, that’s the right thing to do instead of charging on to get to 10,000 units. We’re well on the way to fixing Bovis but it is going to take more than a day.”

Jefferies analyst Anthony Codling called the strategy a “new dawn” and upgraded his estimates for the firm’s annual profits.”

https://www.standard.co.uk/business/new-bovis-chief-whets-city-appetite-for-turnaround-with-divi-bonanza-a3629156.html

Government and developers creating NIMBYs

“The biggest housebuilders are creating growing numbers of nimbys by trampling over communities and building ugly, unaffordable homes, the head of a homelessness charity has warned.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said that developers were putting profits before people and ignoring concerns about the quality and price of new homes.

She blamed the builders for “a huge loss of public faith in our housebuilding system” and called for reforms to planning laws to put people’s needs before corporate profits. “Even when communities create detailed plans for housing developments, these developers brush them aside and build unattractive, unaffordable homes,” she said. “This means many [people] choose to oppose new homes rather than go through a long planning process, only to be ignored in the end.”

The three biggest housebuilders, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments, completed more than 46,000 homes last year and shared revenues of more than £11 billion. They made profits of £2.2 billion.

“The government needs to bring in a new way of building homes which listens to local people to build the high quality and genuinely affordable homes they need, along with schools, parks and other amenities,” Ms Neate said. “We once had a proud tradition of housebuilding in this country, as seen in our popular postwar new towns and garden cities, and it is now critical this is revived for the 21st century.”

Her comments came after a survey of more than 3,500 people found that only 13 per cent felt that developers listened to them. Almost 60 per cent said that they would be more inclined to support the building of new homes if they were listened to more keenly. The southeast had the highest proportion of nimbys, at 38 per cent, while the West Midlands had the lowest at 23 per cent.

The Times revealed last month that a consortium of housebuilders behind a new garden town in Devon had watered down its strict design code. The Sherford development on the outskirts of Plymouth was designed by the Prince of Wales’s architects to prove that his model village of Poundbury in Dorset could work on a larger scale.

The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community said that the builders, Bovis Homes, Linden Homes and Taylor Wimpey, used arcane planning laws to renege on their commitments to quality. Ben Bolgar, the foundation’s director, said they were determined to build a “normal, rubbish housing estate” instead. The consortium said the quality of the homes would not be affected.

Stewart Baseley, chairman of the Home Builders Federation, an industry body, insisted that his members “work closely with councils and residents to ensure the homes being built are what communities need”.

“Housebuilders have dramatically increased output to provide desperately needed homes,” he added. “Constructive debate is needed to develop policies that allow more homes to be built as opposed to baseless claims.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Developer Bovis too poor to finish Axminster estate – and “steep slopes” came as a surprise (and Owl says ‘I told you’!)

Owl predicted problems with this development LONG ago:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/04/04/axminster-regeneration/

Recall the site was acquired below market value when Axminster Carpets got into difficulty.

And it seems that Bovis has its own troubles:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/04/30/bovis-slow-down-will-hit-east-devon-hard/

Although again Owl drew attention to another problem affecting house sales on the site:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/12/23/axminster-and-cranbrook-slums-of-the-future-says-councillor-hull-whilst-councillor-moulding-says-nothing/

So, it’s hardly surprising we find that Bovis blames everyone but themselves for their so- called plight – though its directors are probably not too worried about their bonuses:
http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2017/06/21/new-bovis-homes-boss-buys-extra-2m-shares/

“HOUSE building on the Bovis Homes Cloakham Lawn estate could cease unless planning conditions are removed or eased.

Bovis Homes says the scheme is in the process of stalling and, unless it can be brought back into viability, the company will have “no option but to cease work and mothball the development”.

But Axminster Town Council feels it is an attempt by the developer “to wriggle out of its commitments”, with district councillor Ian Hall saying: “‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”

Bovis Homes has submitted a planning application to East Devon District Council (EDDC) to vary the Section 106 agreement (a set level of affordable housing and contributions towards the local infrastructure and facilities).

The development includes permission for up to 400 dwellings, and the company celebrated the second anniversary of its on-site sales office in September last year.

But a summary of an independent viability assessment, produced by chartered surveyor Belvedere Vantage Ltd, says: “The local market in Axminster has proved very difficult, with interest in the first phase of the development having slowed significantly, resulting in a large number of completed unsold ‘standing units’.”

The summary also referred to a number of physical constraints at the site, and “potential abnormal costs” associated with the constraints, which started to become clear during detailed site investigations after outline planning permission had been given.

Constraints include areas with very steep slopes, a flood plain boundary, two distinct drainage catchments, a watercourse running through the site, the need to maintain access to existing leisure facilities.

The negative impacts, including an inability to plan the scheme effectively, of a tree preservation order are also mentioned.

Axminster Rural district councillor Ian Hall, having declared an interest as he is the chairman of Cloakham Lawn Sports Centre (a Bovis Homes tenant), said in a formal response: “I have absolutely no sympathy.

“This land was purchased by Bovis for £2.9m cheaper than the market price when the failing Axminster Carpets Ltd was winding up.

“Bovis representatives (who were the strong arm of Bovis during the purchase of the land) were very aware of the agreements and were more than happy to proceed with the bargain of the decade.

“I am not one to make unnecessary fuss, although, on this issue, I will not compromise.

“ ‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”

The independent viability assessment is confidential because it contains commercially sensible information, which is not included in the publicly available summary.

Axminster Town Council has requested more detailed confidential information and, in its formal response to EDDC, said: “The town council objects to this application, which appears to be an attempt by the developer to wriggle out of its commitments.

“There is insufficient information on which to make a well-reasoned response.”

The town council requested a meeting with EDDC and the developer so that it would be able to “respond in the light of more detailed, commercially confidential information”.

The town council also requested a site meeting in the company of a planning officer.

Town clerk Hilary Kirkcaldie said EDDC replied it could not share confidential information, but had appointed an independent viability consultant.

EDDC also expressed a willingness to host a site visit, which is yet to be arranged.

In her formal response to the application, EDDC housing strategy officer Melissa Wall said: “We are disappointed that the applicants have not approached the council before submitting their application to vary the S106 contributions to discuss their viability concerns.

“We are open to suggestions regarding changing the tenure and numbers of affordable units in order to assist viability.

“We are hopeful that agreement can be reached between the council and the applicant to ensure that the development can support some form of affordable housing.”

Bovis Homes would not say how many houses have been built and how many are under construction – nor would the company comment on Councillor Hall’s claims.

A spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on live viability applications but we will continue to work closely with the local authorities to deliver the new development at Axm- inster, which is providing much-needed new homes as well as an economic boost and jobs for the area.”

https://www.viewnews.co.uk/housing-development-axminster-stop/