Angry homebuyers plan class-action lawsuit against Bovis

A year after the housebuilder admitted it had pushed people into unfinished homes, they are still struggling with serious defects in their properties

Bovis Homes, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, faces a potential class-action lawsuit from a group of buyers who accuse it of selling houses riddled with defects.

Puneet Verma bought a five-bedroom house with his wife for £485,000 in Milton Keynes two years ago but says he still has a list of 120 snags. He is now consulting two law firms, Leigh Day and Slater & Gordon, about taking group action.

“I have had a survey done by a chartered surveyor that categorically states the workmanship is extremely poor and that Bovis is not in compliance with building regulations,” Verma says. “Bovis has treated, and continues to treat, its customers appallingly and now the only way to get our problems resolved is to take legal action.”

Verma is aiming to raise a £100,000 fund through a £100 contribution per homeowner, assuming 1,000 of the 2,500-strong Bovis Homes Victims group on Facebook sign up.

It has been almost a year since the housebuilder issued a profit warning and was accused of paying thousands of pounds in cash incentives to get buyers to move into unfinished homes. As the scandal widened, the company set aside £7m to fix defects and appointed a new chief executive.

A year on, some Bovis homeowners say they will be spending Christmas in houses that are riddled with faults, including leaks, moving and creaking floors, lack of insulation and sewage backups, as well coping with shoddy workmanship.

Ian Tyler, the chairman of Bovis, apologised to buyers in May for “letting them down” and admitted the firm had been cutting corners to hit ambitious targets. The company says it slowed production to iron out build problems, retrained sales staff and set up an advisory homebuyers panel, which has met once.

Dave Howard, who set up the Facebook group with his wife, Ann, and who sits on the panel, doubts whether Bovis has made any progress on improving build standards and customer service. He claims homeowners who report problems are being referred to the National House Building Council (NHBC), the standard-setting body and main home construction warranty provider for new-builds in the UK. But in the first two years after purchase the housebuilder is responsible for rectifying defects.

“We have had constructive contact with the new customer experience director, but there are too many people hitting brick walls with Bovis and NHBC,” Howard says. “Some new customers have had better experiences but that seems to have slipped too.”

Bovis says: “We have made significant changes to how we operate in 2017 and a growing majority of our customers would now recommend us to family and friends.

“We remain determined to make things right for customers who raise warranty items and apologise to those to whom we have not previously delivered the high levels of quality and service they rightly expected.”

Bovis Homes
Bovis Homes ... not flying the flag for quality construction. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA

The company says customer problems in the first two years are dealt with by an in-house team. If they are still not satisfied they can then go to NHBC.

Guardian Money spoke to a number of people who have bought Bovis homes in the past two years. Bovis declined to comment on the individual cases, or the possible legal action.

Gas safety regulations breached

When Tara Grosvenor recently returned from a 10-day holiday in the US to her one-year-old, four-bedroom Bovis house in the village of Honeybourne, Warwickshire, she could smell gas. She alerted National Grid, which immediately capped the gas supply off and condemned it.

The gas system, which was installed by a Bovis contractor and signed off by NHBC, was found to be in breach of gas safety regulations. “There were loads of other snagging issues in the house, some of which remain outstanding, but this was potentially life threatening,” Grosvenor says.

The 29-year-old credit risk manager asked Bovis to buy back the £325,000 house from her but it refused, so she took legal action. Bovis initially offered £500 in compensation and later raised it to £1,000.

She deplores what she calls “the lack of weight the consumer has and the insignificance of their voice to fight their case in these situations against a corporation the size of Bovis”.

Sewage smell in kitchen

Amanda Clarke also wants Bovis to buy back her three-bedroom detached house in Flitwick, Bedfordshire, after discovering major defects. She bought it 14 months ago for £345,000.

Clarke, a 49-year-old content developer, has had blocked drains and says she has had to put up with the smell of sewage in her kitchen and toilet for the past 11 months. Not satisfied with Bovis’s response, she had her own survey done, which identified other major issues such as high levels of moisture across the ground floor.

Maggot and fly infestation

Alex Atrill, who purchased a four-bedroom detached house at Boorley Park in Botley, Hampshire, at the end of June for £439,000, has suffered a gas leak and a major maggot infestation in his kitchen that turned into a fly infestation. He also has poorly laid flooring. “It’s just been a fight,” he says. “They all say they are really sorry but nothing ever gets done.”

More than 100 snags

Jenny and Philip Thomas moved into The Winchester, a five-bedroom detached house in Little Wootton, Bedfordshire, in late June. They sold their previous home before Christmas because Bovis promised their new one would be ready in January. But they had to stay in temporary accommodation with two children, one just a few weeks old. They were given two days’ notice before their move-in date.

“This is a £600,000 ‘executive’ home – we had better quality in our two bedroom council home seven years ago,” Jenny says.

Sewage backed up into their house after plumbing was put in incorrectly, a damp-proof course has been severely breached and the garage floods.

“We have had over 100 snags and some major breaches of NHBC standards and building regulation law. Since we have challenged this, with the support of my father-in-law who is an ex-NHBC inspector, and not accepted the offered solutions that are not compliant with the standards, they [Bovis] have totally stonewalled us.”

Hole in the living room

Karen Stacey-Pope says Bovis has been slow to fix a series of serious defects at the four-bedroom detached house she and her family bought for £335,000 in Banbury last December. She paid £1,100 for a survey by a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors member, but says Bovis won’t accept many of the findings.

Defects include damp in the loft, stairs that are too high, missing movement joints (the house is built on a flood plain) and a leak through the kitchen ceiling. She has also had a big hole in the living room near the patio door since March.

She is recovering from a breast cancer operation and has an autoimmune disease. Her GP wrote a letter to Bovis, seen by Money, warning about the impact of damp and the issue with the stairs on her health.

All the floors move

Pete Oldham and his wife, a retired couple, bought a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Cranbrook, Devon, for £234,995 in December 2015. “All the floors move,” Oldham says. “When you walk into a room the furniture moves. They haven’t fitted things properly but are in denial.” He says the floor joists should be 400mm apart, not 600mm. There has been a breakdown in communication with Bovis and he has been referred to NHBC.


Julia Kollewe

The GuardianTramp

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