Category Archives: Barratt/David Wilson Homes

NHBC and David Wilson Homes on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours

The BBC Radio 4 ‘You and Yours’ programme on 26 October 2016, was  a great opportunity to further promote the setting up of a government-appointed New Homes Ombudsman and the implementation of the other nine APPG report recommendations. This is necessary because as the APPG Inquiry discovered, both housebuilders and warranty providers are failing new homebuyers despite a record £81million being spent on claims under the NHBC warranty to April 2015. It was disappointing that this Petition to Government was not mentioned.

The recent repeat of a BBC TV documentary, “Inside the Commons” – showed how government works and without a parliamentary debate, the APPG recommendations are very unlikely to be implemented anytime soon. Individual MPs, even if they are successful in the Private Member’s Bill ballot, rarely see their bill become law.

This You and Yours broadcast on BBC Radio 4 featured the ubiquitous new home buying “victim” selected to tell their ‘tale of woe’ with possible practical solutions to the widespread problems the industry is causing, overlooked or touched on very briefly. The programme gave housebuilder David Wilson Homes the opportunity to issue the usual insincere housebuilder  statement:- “rare isolated incidence – we are truly sorry – working with the homeowner to remedy as soon as possible”

Factual Errors:

There were factual errors made in statements with the BBC presenter referring to the NHBC ‘warranty’ as a ‘guarantee’.

nhbc-buildmark-warrantyFor the avoidance of doubt:

Warranty: 1) A written guarantee promising to repair or replace an article if necessary within a specific period. 2) An engagement by an insured party that certain statements are true or certain conditions shall be fulfilled.

Guarantee: 1) A formal assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled, especially that a product will be of a specified quality. 2) Something that makes an outcome certain.

The new home warranty, is in essence an insurance policy paid for by the builder, to provide cover against any latent defects that may occur in the new home. It is not and never has been, a guarantee of any kind.

NHBC warranty claims

The £87million “compensation” figure for “2015” mentioned by the presenter was in reality the amount the NHBC spent rectifying defective new homes after claims were made by buyers under the warranty to April 2015 – not “in 2015” as stated. It was most definitely NOT compensation directly paid by housebuilders as the presenter implied. Nevertheless the NHBC do receive the majority of their funding from the housebuilders as insurance premiums for new home warranty policies. The NHBC do not pay buyers any compensation under the warranty.

This is why a New Homes Ombudsman is so important and so essential!

On the feature the presenter said that new homebuyers “can’t get problems fixed. The NHBC can recommend that the builder does repairs but the builder can refuse to do them.”

New homebuyers Lee & Jackie Gilcrest moved into their 5 bed £480,000, David Wilson Home in December 2014. They told the BBC they have had constant problems with it ever since they moved in. It was cold so the radiators were upgraded to double radiators. The owners claim that in the winter it was costing £10 a day to heat their home – £300 month. They said the EcoTherm insulation installed was only 100mm thick and should have been 190mm. They also claimed that none of the windows and doors had been installed correctly and none have been sealed.

They said:

“We were talking to David Wilson Homes and getting nowhere. When you think you are finally making progress, in the end they turned around and said they are not prepared to do any more of your issues anymore despite it being under two years and their responsibility, handing over all our defects to the NHBC. The NHBC ruled in our favour and the builder had to rectify it, David Wilson Homes have turned round and basically spat us out, the NHBC are pretty much back-tracking on what they’ve been saying. We’ve been given a pot of money and been told to be quiet.”

David Wilson Homes told the BBC in a statement that they are sorry and are working hard to fix the problems. The overwhelming majority of buyers on the estate were happy and they had had few complaints.

The NHBC say they are: “committed to treating homeowners fairly as a central philosophy within our business strategy.” They aim to understand homeowners’ need and be recognised, understood and appreciated by homeowners for the ongoing development and delivery of high standards to improve the construction standards of new homes. Leading the industry in providing solutions to remedy new home construction problems and when home construction problems occur, provide homeowners with a fair and simple claims service which offers a lasting solution.

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Why are private roads so common on new housing developments?

“The council do not adopt new housing estates anymore”

Private roads (as defined by Sections 203 to 237 (Part XI) of the Highways Act 1980) are a highway not maintainable at public expense. The local highway authority is therefore under no obligation to pay for its maintenance. Responsibility for the cost of maintaining a private road rests with the frontages – the owners of properties with frontages on such roads.

Flooded road at Bovis

Bovis development – Homes finished but not the road!

It is now becoming increasingly common on new housing developments that roads and other public areas are not being taken over and adopted by Local Authorities. With the roads and landscaping areas remaining private ownership, all new-build homebuyers on these developments are legally responsible for their maintenance, repair and insurance, paid for via years of ongoing, potentially ever increasing, annual management charges.

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Have Persimmon Tried To Buy A Better HBF Star Rating?

Can buyers trust HBF  builder Star Ratings?

The HBF National new home customer satisfaction survey is now in its eleventh year. The house builder star ratings (awarded by the HBF) “are allocated according to the proportion responding Yes..” to Question 1 of the survey: “Would you recommend your builder to a friend?…. Yes or No”    The more that respond “Yes”, the better the builder’s star rating.

During research for a previous article concerning claims made by the HBF in the 2016 survey results, I considered the possibility that builders’ sales and site management may be influencing their buyers to respond more favourably in the NHBC 8-week survey. After enquiring on social media, buyers from Britain’s two largest house builders, Persimmon and Barratt, who together built over 31,000 new homes last year, publicly expressed their opinions and claims:

Persimmon HBF SurveyJP (16 October 2015) said: “I’ve bought a recent new build from Persimmon and o boy what a joke their after sales are. I would like to point out I love my flat it’s them that annoy me. We have all been bullied and harassed to tick the first box on the NHBC survey that we would recommend a friend. Obviously didn’t tick it and because I naively ticked share my opinions Persimmon are now treating me like dirt……They were ringing us Saturday and Sunday and I quote “If I do you a favour now, you can do me a favour and tick the first box” They didn’t give a **** about our problems just whether we had said yes or no.”

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Barratt withdraw its unique five-year warranty

Last July, Mark Clare retired as CEO of Barratt Developments after a nine-year stint in charge. Within a year of David Thomas taking over the helm, Barratt’s unique five-year new home warranty is no more, withdrawn in November 2015 – six years after being first being introduced.cropped-Barratt-9ss.jpgIn their press release on 17 November 2009 Barratt, Britain’s biggest house builder by volume, proudly proclaimed that their new homes will be covered by a five-year guarantee of fixtures and fittings: “Items covered at no extra cost to the buyer will include appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators, kitchen units, wardrobes, the central heating system, fires, doors, windows, the hot and cold plumbing system, shower doors, sanitary ware and taps, ironmongery, electrical system, internal/external drainage, renewable energy installation (if fitted), and even the boundary brick walls and the driveway” said Barratt.

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Do the NHBC give Quality Awards only to site managers building high quality new homes?

The NHBC 2014 ‘Pride in the Job’ Quality Awards have recently been announced and it is clear that most of the major house builders have not improved the quality of the homes they build.  See the house builder league tables here for awards in 2014 and previous years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast year Barratt made history with 102 of their site managers winning awards for quality. This year, despite building more homes on more sites, Barratt won 13 fewer awards – 89 in total, followed by Taylor Wimpey with 70 – just two more than last year!

The remainder of the largest house builders won just a handful of quality awards, much as they did last year – Linden 5, Bellway 29, Redrow 13, Crest 12, Bovis 4 and Berkeley 12. The biggest shock was again Persimmon, the largest house builder by market value, winning a pitiful 8, even less than the meagre 13 their site managers won in 2013!   Clearly this company has problems and appears to be indifferent to the quality of the homes it builds.

It is becoming an increasing concern that the NHBC hand out awards to certain builder’s site managers regardless of their personal management ability or the quality of homes built on their site.  TWPITJ1Last year, the NHBC gave Taylor Wimpey’s Richard Crawford a Quality Award for his site at The Chariots in Andover.  Since then, many unlucky homebuyers have discovered  their homes were not only poor quality, but in some cases also potentially dangerous, with various electrical faults despite passing an “inspection” and incorrectly wired boilers.  Taylor Wimpey 9 months small sizeOne buyer (full story here) has taken over 35 days off work to allow various trades access to his home to fix and repair the defective workmanship. So far (8 months on) CEO Peter Redfern has failed to get personally involved and has not even replied to the owner’s many detailed letters.   Yet this site manager won an NHBC Award for “Quality” for this site!

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Mark Clare Barratt CEO wants even more help for house builders

Unsurprisingly, Mark Clare is a big fan of Help to Buy. In an interview with the Mail on Sunday he said:   “The ability to buy homes with a 5% deposit is creating confidence in the housing market after years of uncertainty going back to the financial crisis in 2008. We are seeing queues outside our showhomes”

Mark ClareClare 56, believes the market was already picking up, even before Help to Buy with demand being boosted by signs of a general economic recovery.   Barratt recorded a record 73.7% rise in underlying pre tax profit to £192.3 million in the year to the end June 2013. The average price for a Barratt (privately-sold) home also increased to £213,900. In their Interim Statement last week, Barratt confirmed sales are up by 47%. 

Mark Clare, a graduate from Portsmouth Polytechnic, has a background in accountancy. After 12 years at British Gas he joined Barratt as CEO in October 2006.  In April 2007  he oversaw the £2.7bn acquisition of Wilson Bowden, which included the David Wilson Homes brand – just a year ahead of the global financial meltdown and the total collapse of the housing market created by the ‘credit crunch’. The company’s share price collapsed from 954p in August 2007 to just 39.5 in less than a year.  A Rights Issue was required to raise additional funds from shareholders to keep the company afloat.    Not a great start in a new job was it? 

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Completion inspections not carried out on at least 24 new homes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Oxford Mail recently reported that David Wilson Homes built 678 new homes on their Shelton Park development in Carterton between 2002 and 2005, but as yet, an “unknown number” of new homes had not been inspected after they were completed. These homes were built before the Barratt £2.7bn acquisition of David Wilson Homes in April 2007.

A spokeswoman for David Wilson Homes said the company was working with the district council to ascertain how many properties do not have a completion certificate, but added that it was anticipated this would be a “relatively low number”. 

To comply with the Building Regulations, all house builders are required to get final inspection completion certificate for every new home constructed and before anyone moves in. The building inspector should be asked to inspect each home on completion, to ensure it has been built to the required building regulations. An inspection ‘CML’ certificate is normally required before mortgage funds are released. Owners without a completion certificate would not be able to sell their homes if they ever chose to.

Building inspectors from West Oxfordshire District Council have now been brought in to inspect the houses and faults have been found in 24 houses so far concerning chimneys, windows and ventilation.

Simon Kirk, David Wilson Homes (Southern) technical director, said: “We are aware of outstanding issues at Carterton. We are working closely with West Oxford District Council to ensure that these issues are resolved.”

West Oxfordshire District Council spokeswoman Carys Davies said:  “Where we have identified issues, David Wilson Homes are implementing the remedial measures, agreed by the district council and the property owner, as quickly as possible so that a completion certificate can be awarded. We have identified 24 properties where works are required and discussions on remedial works are ongoing. This includes work to chimneys, windows and ventilation issues.”

Quite how final inspections could be “missed” on at least 24 new homes and mortgage funds released without a completion certificate for each property has yet to be explained by the organisation engaged to carry out the inspections or by David Wilson Homes Southern. Even more inexplicable is how the various solicitors appointed by the 24 new home buyers also failed to ensure that completion certificates had been issued before legally completing on each property.

This would appear to be an unprecedented catalogue of professional failure at many levels.

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