When Liz Fidler bought her apartment at The Old Brewery in Scarborough, she took comfort from the fact that it came with a 10-year National House Building Council Buildmark warranty.
Now, after a long-running battle with the NHBC over water seeping into the apartments, she and her fellow residents are sending a red flag warning to those buying new-build flats.
Liz owns one of the 10 properties at The Old Brewery, which was built seven years ago by Thompson Homes. She and fellow residents began having problems three years ago when water began leaking into their homes causing damp, damage and mould.
Surveys have shown that the water is seeping down into the cavity between the external and internal walls through holes under the concrete coping stones on the roof parapet. The water ingress has got progressively worse but while residents can continually make claims for damage to flooring, furniture, ceilings and walls inside each flat, the NHBC refuses to fix the root cause of the issue, even though this would put a stop to the problems and cost the NHBC far less in the long run.
The Buildmark warranty will not cover the defects at The Old Brewery as its assessors say that the cost of the repairs do not meet the threshold for the minimum claim value covering the building’s “common parts” i.e. the roof and external walls. This is the combined total of the minimum claim threshold for all 10 of the apartment interiors, when the initial complaint was lodged in 2019, which was £1,600 each, resulting in a total of £16,000.
The NHBC surveyor’s report states there is evidence of gapping beneath the copings but says that the builder told him they are safe as they are mechanically secured with secret fixings. The surveyor notes that the gaps could have been caused by shrinkage of the building’s timber frame but agrees the copings need to be removed and rebedded with additional fixings. However, he adds that the cost of this would be £13,000, which falls £3,000 short of the £16,000 minimum needed to make a claim.
Through their property managing agent, residents hired their own surveyor to assess the building and he said that 75 per cent of the coping stones had failed and were “loose and debonded” and at risk of falling on to the public footpath and car park. He added that the cement and mortar joints are eroded, cracked and damaged and attempts at fixing this with mastic have been incorrectly undertaken.
He also adds that the lead flashings beneath the chimney stack have been dressed under the coping stones, causing moisture ingress to saturate the masonry, while the chimney stacks are leaning causing cracking to the mortar joints and are in need of “urgent repair”. He estimated the cost at £20,350. Residents got their own quotes from local builders which came in at between £20,000 and £35,000 for all the work needed.
“We can’t understand why the NHBC Buildmark warranty won’t cover the repairs given that we have provided proof that the cost of having the work done is over the minimum £16,000 claim threshold,” says Liz. “It just doesn’t make sense. There are three years to run on the warranty and if the leaks continue, there will be continual claims for water damage to the interiors.”
“The claims have already been substantial and in one case amounted to over £4,000. Not tackling the root cause is nonsensical.”
Residents also want to warn those buying flats to make sure they scrutinise the Buildmark warranty and get a structural survey on the exterior parts of
the building before they agree to buy.
An NHBC spokesperson said: “We are sorry that residents at The Old Brewery are experiencing problems with their homes. We have agreed claims for homeowners regarding damp in their home. Should other NHBC policyholders at The Old Brewery have problems with their home we would encourage them to get in touch so we can advise how we may be able to help.
“We are in contact with the managing agent regarding the claims relating to external parts of the building and are reviewing information we have recently received. Once this review has been concluded we will update the managing agent.”
The residents have tried to get in touch with Scarborough-based Thompson Homes to see if it could apply pressure on the NHBC or even offer to fix the issues with the copings and chimneys but the only response they had was to “contact the NHBC”. Thompson Homes’ website states that the company is renowned for attention to detail and quality of finish and adds that it is registered with the NHBC “your guarantee of high quality property building work”. The Yorkshire Post’s multiple attempts at discussing the residents’ situation with Thompson Homes were ignored.
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