Author Topic: 9 Months after Moving-in the Garden is Still not Turfed or Levelled - Abbey  (Read 2135 times)

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Bindon_blood

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In December 2015 I purchased a 4 bedroom detached house from Abbey New Homes. Included in the sale was a landscaped rear garden (graded, levelled and turfed).

Before we were exchanged we were told this work would take place two-weeks before we moved in.
There is a large earth bank at the rear of the property, and we were told that surveyors had said the angle-of-repose of it was too steep and a log-pile wall would be constructed retain it (this has been constructed on the flanking properties). The earth bank backs onto two other new build properties (which subsequently collapsed and were fixed by Abbey homes before sale).

Roll on some 9 months later and my garden has still not been levelled, has not been turfed and the retaining wall has not been built. My next-door neighbour is in the same situation.
Abbey have acknowledged that the work needs doing, but their only solution was terraced log-pile walls (around 50cm width), that would occupy over a third of the garden (rendering it unusable) and meaning that the garden's gradient looked nothing like the plan we bought off.

A second sub-contractor quote by Abbey was for a blockwork retaining wall, but their Construction Director has not signed this off. Since then we have had nothing from Abbey other than excuses. In the meantime, the earth-bank has started to subside bringing the fence-line with it and the building site garden is now 5' deep in stinging nettles and brambles (Abbey said someone would come around to cut it…unsurprisingly they haven't. Our garden remains completely unusable (photos to follow).

The issue was escalated to NHBC and they have inspected it and have confirmed that the angle of repose of the earth bank is outside their guidelines. But, they have said they can only tell Abbey to resolve the bank, not how to do it. Nor can they order Abbey to turf the garden or fix the collapsing fence.

What is the best way to proceed with this? Through NHBC for the earth bank and then the small claims court for everything else? Are Abbey New Homes in breach of contract?

Many thanks for your time,

Tom


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This is very serious. Your home is at a very real risk of serious structural damage if the earth bank collapsed into it. You and other occupants in the home may also be in danger!

As a matter of urgency, you need to get a solicitor's letter sent to both the NHBC and Abbey New Homes today, informing them of the potentially serious nature and that if the worst happens, you would sue for negligence - a claim that could well run into seven figures including costs.

The NHBC warranty your home for structural defects. An unstable earth bund would result in a claim under the warranty.  Abbey New Homes have a duty of care.  Neither can shirk their legal responsibilities.

Given what you have said, any retaining structure will need to be designed by a qualified structural engineer, not some inexpensive, ad-hoc timber terraced palisade!  I doubt even a thick blockwork wall would be sufficient strength unless it was heavily reinforced.  My guess is, everyone is avoiding the only possible solution, a reinforced concrete retaining wall, which will be very expensive. No wonder Abbey Homes  MD won't sign it off!

You need to focus on the serious matter of the unstable earth bund threatening your home rather than the cosmetics of your garden as it is.

Abbey New Homes are contractually bound to provide you with what you were sold and promised. The garden will be levelled and turfed eventually. I believe it is being delayed until the retaining wall is designed constructed. 
You should not be expected to lose a third of your garden, just so Abbey New Homes can save the additional cost of constructing a stronger and more costly retaining wall at the boundary.

You have two years after moving in to raise a claim using the Consumer Code for Home Builders Adjudication Scheme, however, the maximum claim value is only £15,000 and it specifically does not cover loss of property value. The Small Claims court maximum claim of just £10,000. Both will cover the cost of landscaping your garden but not loss of property value if a section of your garden is "taken away" (unusable) for the retaining structure.

Please do, attach some photos.
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Bindon_blood

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New Homes Expert,

Many thanks for your really helpful response - sorry I should have given you more context or a photo. 
The bank is on a 30% gradient and has a height difference of about 5-6' with ground level (the NHBC guideline is 9%).  While I'm no Chartered Engineer I do have a little bit of experience with soil and structures due to my own trade and I'm pretty confident that there is no structural risk to my property.  The clay bank is at the rear of the garden and over 10m from the house - unlike most new builds I've ended up with a garden that is actually BIGGER than a postage stamp, which is why I chose this particular plot! Should this clay bank subside, then I believe that the worst that would happen is my rear-neighbour's garden would (albeit seriously) collapse into mine.

24 hours after the meeting, the  NHBC have told Abbey New Homes to have the issue addressed by 18 September 2016.  So I guess my questions are:

(1) How do I make sure Abbey New Homes build a proper brick retaining wall rather than some heath-Robinson log-pile terrace?  The Plan I bought off doesn't show any terraces.

(2) What is the best route to make a claim for not having a garden for 9 months because Abbey New Homes refused to carry out work they knew needed doing (written evidence) and that their customer service/admin was so poor it caused the process to be drawn out? The Adjudication Scheme can only give me £250 maximum compensation, while I assume I can get more from Small Claims?

(3) What is "reasonable" to actually claim against - I missed an entire growing season so I'll now need to buy more mature (and expensive) plants. I can't do much hard-landscaping in the winter and/or contractors may charge more because the work will be conducted in poor weather. I bought the garden because I had a large dog - initially we trashed the carpets letting him out into the "Somme" (so they've been cleaned extensively), now we have to take him for a walk 4 times a day so he can go to the toilet - whilst he would normally have at least one walk a day we've lost huge amounts of time over 9 months doing this.

Many thanks for your help thus far.

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You do have grounds for a claim using the CCHB Adjudication Scheme.
Be sure to claim the £120 fee and the £250 maximum for inconvenience.
You can also claim for carpet cleaning and for several breaches of the Code by Abbey New Homes.

I doubt a claim for buying more mature plants or paying contractors extra fro working in "poorer weather" (I've never heard of any contractors wanting that!) and your dog's welfare and walking isn't one of them though!

What is a reasonable level of compensation is for you and the adjudicator to judge.
Personally I would accept £500 in cash and the hard landscaping done by Abbey New homes at no cost to you as fair.

You have only lost the use and enjoyment of your garden for none months. 
Many who buy new homes have to actually move out for several months living in temporary accommodation whilst their home is rectified.
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