Carbon Monoxide Alarms
The fitting of carbon monoxide alarms in new homes should be a mandatory requirement of the Building Regulations in England and Wales. It may come as a surprise to learn that every year over 4,000 people are admitted to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning that could lead to brain damage and strokes – with 40 fatalities recorded in England and Wales. One in nine British homes have boilers classified as unsafe.
You can’t see it, you can’t smell it. Carbon Monoxide – the new home defect that kills!
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the equivalent to the building regulations, requires a BS EN 50291 kite-marked carbon monoxide alarm to be fitted when any new or replacement fuel appliance is installed (except cookers). This covers any fuel burning appliance, including those that burn gas, oil, coal and wood. The alarms must be fitted in any room with the appliance or if it is an enclosed boiler, just outside the enclosure and any room that has a flue running through it. Alarms can be mains or battery powered but if the alarm is battery powered then the battery should last for the life of the alarm.
No requirement in England and Wales:
But the Building Regulations for England and Wales, Approved Document J, only require carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted when any new or replacement solid-fuel appliance is installed. Examples of solid fuel burning appliances being wood burners, open fires etc. There is also additional legislation requiring a carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted in all rented residential accommodation with gas appliances, but not in owner-occupied homes.
Is your new home killing you?
The shocking truth is, any new home built since 2000 that has a gas central heating boiler could be lethal. There is now widespread recognition that systems with concealed twin extended boiler flues, pose a significant risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. I am calling for a mandatory requirement that all new homes must be fitted with carbon monoxide alarms. In addition, every new home must be independently inspected, not merely ‘signed off’ and certificated by the installer.
Carbon monoxide poisoning kills
14 November 2007
Maria Ighodalo (28) dies from carbon monoxide poisoning
London and Quadrant housing association tenant, Maria Ighodalo, died in a block of flats, known as ‘Beulah Hill’, in Upper Norwood from carbon monoxide poisoning. The flat had a gas safety certificate and a concealed flue heating system.
27 February 2008
Elouise Littlewood (26) dies from carbon monoxide poisoning
You would think that following the tragic death of 26 year-old dance teacher Elouise Littlewood on 27 February 2008, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty boiler installation in her flat on the Barratt development at ‘Bedfont Lakes’ in Notting Hill West London, that all house builders would be double checking every boiler in every new home they build, to ensure they are 100% safe and installed to manufacturer’s and GasSafe instructions. Elouise bought the two-bedroom property through a shared ownership scheme with Notting Hill Housing confirming: “Barratt had installed the gas system and produced a gas safety certificate with a one-year guarantee.”
We all know about the oft-quoted HBF survey question: “Would you recommend your builder to a friend?” In the 2016 survey results an somewhat unbelievable 85% said they would, but did they? Most of the large house builders have recommend a friend schemes also known as “send a friend.” Normally a leaflet outlining the scheme is dropped in the Welcome Pack buyers are given when they move in to their new home. They offer a cash payment to buyers who recommend a friend or someone who goes on to buy a home from the house builder. These payments vary considerably from a paltry £300 (Keepmoat) up to £4,000, although it appears £500 is the most common.
For most, the extra money will come in handy at a time of need, especially with all the costs associated with moving home. But beware there is a procedure and significant hoops to jump through before you can get your referral cash, even then it can take several weeks. The referral payment is only made following the friend’s legal completion.
Firstly, you should also consider whether your house builder is worthy of recommendation. Would your friend thank you if their new home turned out to be an unmitigated disaster from hell as they often do?
“The PPI of the house building Industry”
The APPG for Leasehold and Commonhold Reform managed to secure a debate in the commons chamber on Tuesday 20th December 2016 to discuss the leasehold new houses scandal. With 53 APPG members, it was surprising that only 13 MPs and Housing Minister Gavin Barwell attended initially. I previously highlighted the scandal of leasehold new houses on 7 November 2016 entitled “The next mis-selling scandal” This phrase apparently being picked up, with the Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, Justin Madders calling the practice during the debate as “the PPI of the house building Industry”. See also Never buy a leasehold new house 28 October 2016
Leasehold new houses scandal
An analysis by the excellent campaign group Leasehold Knowledge Partnership (LKP) in November 2016, revealed that 8,775 new-build leasehold houses totalling nearly £2billion were sold in England and Wales last year. In all around 45,000 new houses have been registered as leasehold. Many of these bought with help from taxpayers’ through the Help to Buy scheme. In most cases, the housebuilder sells the freehold after a couple of years to a private company, which can then demand extortionate fees from homebuyers.
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”
It would appear that the house builders’ share price rise since the financial crash of 2008, has been built on the same dodgy foundations as some of their houses are. A business model built on selling sub-standard houses to sub-prime borrowers.
This was illustrated during the first two days of trading following the UK’s historic vote leave the EU. Worst hit in the initial market panic were Banks and shares in the listed house builders. Despite this, some ever-greedy directors used the Friday crash to buy more shares on the cheap, known as “catching a falling knife” and promptly lost another 15%! Taylor Wimpey Non-Exec director Dame Kate Barker, 59, who produced the Barker Review on housing supply in 2004 – which resulted in the industry setting up the HBF Customer Satisfaction Survey two years later, but has failed to have any impact on improving either supply or quality – bought 20,000 Taylor Wimpey shares for £26,953 but the shares closed down 15% leaving her with a paper loss of £3,800.
“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.
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.
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.In 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.
“Why choose Persimmon?” it says their website. Why indeed.
It remains a complete mystery to me why anyone in his or her right mind would actually choose to buy a new home from Persimmon. Especially when they can choose to buy from any five-star rated housebuilder with a history of winning NHBC awards for quality. Or at least avoid the worst of the housebuilders – those featured on national television programmes and in newspaper columns for both the poor standard of the homes they build and the lack of any resemblance of customer care when homebuyers discover the inevitable snags and defects, missed by the so called professionals employed by housebuilders such as Persimmon.
I am amazed that year after year, naïve young homebuyers get taken in by Persimmon’s marketing spin, some ending up in tears on national television with their fully preventable tales of woe. Preventable, because their homes could have been built with greater care. Preventable, because they could be built more slowly and all stages thoroughly checked and inspected by Persimmon site management, the warranty provider and building control inspectors. Preventable, because the government could and should introduce new legislation to protect all new homebuyers and provide an independent means of dispute resolution in the form of an Ombudsman for New Homes, rather than rely on a Consumer Code for Home Builders, set up and managed by housebuilders and other interested parties.
Talk is cheap.
All housebuilders make exaggerated claims about the homes they build and the “service” they offer to customers. Only in housebuilding could 93% of buyers experience a problem. Only in housebuilding would 47% of buyers be expecting the number of defects and problems they get. Yet they still buy new homes, year after year. Maybe they get taken in and assured by statements like these:
From the moment our customers reserve one of our new homes, we pledge to make the experience enjoyable and informative each step of the way.
We aim to take care of our customers, not just when they are buying but also when they have moved into their new home. All of our staff are trained to provide a high level of customer service and to deliver our comprehensive pre-move and after sales pledge to our customers.”
“On completion of your new home we will provide you with a quality assured certificate for you to keep within your Masterfile.”
Pity their homes are not 100% complete when some of their buyers are told they are! Persimmon also state on their website that: