Broken heating and leaks: Buyers wait months for new homes to be fixed
- Credit: Michelle Tricker
When Trudi West and husband Alan moved into a new home in Harleston they were hoping for a quiet life.
Mr West, a retired builder, had heart problems and the couple were looking for somewhere which needed no work.
They paid £225,000 for a three-bedroom house at a development by Crafton Homes called Fuller’s Place. It was marketed as “Quality Homes, Crafted With Care".
But buyers say they have waited up to 18 months to get problems repaired and have today hit out at the quality of the build.
These claims are batted back by director and owner of Crafton Homes, Steve Collins, who said he had written to homeowners twice saying they were trying to fix problems as quickly as possible.
He blamed the pandemic for the delays and said issues had been resolved, but admitted there was a “backlog” of work.
Mr Collins also said he was happy with the quality of the homes and added all heating, plumbing and electrical issues had been fixed as emergencies. However, residents we spoke to said this was not the case.
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In Mrs West’s home, she found her cooker was not working when she moved in September 2019.
Crafton visited to fix it and she said when they pulled it away from the wall, they found it had not been wired in and there was rubble behind the cooker.
A window pane also had to be replaced and another window was wonky and had to be redone.
But the main problem was the boiler.
“From the beginning we had trouble,” Mrs West, 61, said. “It kept losing pressure. We had to keep topping it up each week with water otherwise it wouldn’t come on.”
In October last year, Crafton sent a plumber as she had no heating. The plumber discovered a damp stain on the wall next to the boiler.
It emerged a builder had nailed through a boiler pipe which had been leaking since the house had been built. They fixed the leak, but never plastered over the hole.
In July 2020, she also reported a large number of cracks in her plaster around several windows, but they have still not been fixed.
“We can’t decorate our home until the cracks are fixed,” she said. "It is so frustrating."
'Dream come true'
Michelle Tricker, 56, moved into her new house at Fuller’s Place in July last year with husband, Steve, 64, and daughter, Kirstin, 33, paying £375,000 for a four-bed home.
“It was a dream come true,” she said. “It had enough bedrooms so that when my son and grandchildren came to visit, they had room to sleep.”
But she said it quickly turned into a nightmare.
“On moving into the property, we found we had no hot water in the kitchen for about three weeks due to a dodgy tap,” she said. “There were numerous other issues, including the floor boards which have still not been fixed.”
She contacted Crafton Homes and said they carried out some repairs, including fire doors not shutting properly and a leaking shower, but others have been left unresolved for several months.
Then in December her garage flooded and she has now paid another £4,000 to sort drainage in her garden which she believed had made the flood worse.
“We also found there was no sealant under the garage door and the water just rose up through the wall,” she said. “It ruined many items. My fridge, freezer and tumble drier were just sitting in water.”
Mrs Tricker said she is now also waiting for her heating to be repaired.
“When we put the heating on downstairs, the radiators upstairs come on instead,” she said. “We are going to have to have floorboards up to get to the pipes.”
Residents have been told to report problems on an online portal but Mrs Tricker said: “They are so swamped everything takes ages.”
She also contacted the building inspector who signed the house off as meeting building standards, but he simply referred her back to Crafton.
He wrote: "Responsibility for compliance lies with the person carrying out the work and their design and construction team. Building Control’s role is only to certify that general compliance has been achieved."
“It seems there is no comeback for new builds,” Mrs Tricker said.
Another buyer, who did not want to be named, moved in at Christmas time.
“As soon as we moved in the heating was not working properly,” he said. “When we went through the cold patch in February it was really tough.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have had problems.”
What the builder says
Mr Collins said there was only a team of two people to fix issues and they were not able to work as much during the pandemic.
“We have a dedicated aftercare team that logs all of these issues and I’m running through them line by line and trying to work out how we can sort them,” he said.
He said the company had built three developments at Harleston, Rackheath and Broome and was now focusing on getting the defects fixed rather than building any more homes.
Mr Collins wrote to homeowners January saying: “Due to the current demands to deal with emergency issues, we are asking that you please do not email or call the aftercare team for anything other than emergency issues. Any emails that are not of an emergency nature may be missed and it is your responsibility to log them on the portal.
“We will continue to arrange contractors where possible and will be doing as much behind the scenes as we can to ensure we can tackle the backlog as soon as we can. We will provide a further update on timing once we have an indication from the government that lockdown and tier levels are easing.”
What protection do homeowners have?
New homes are protected by a 10-year warranty which covers things like structural defects, windows and plastering.
For the first two years, any other problems with the home must also be fixed at no cost to the homeowner. Defects should also be covered by a consumer code.