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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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We bought a new build property in June 2012. Unknown to us,

Resolved Question:

We bought a new build property in June 2012. Unknown to us, the external bricks of the property were defective. This resulted in what is called 'sulfate attack' on the mortar that holds the bricks together. As a result the cement portion of the mortar was dissolving away leaving behind a very soft mortar....and sand in the mortar falling out thus compromising the ability of the external 'skin' of the building leading to excessive saturation of the bricks. After completion of purchase, we found out that the builder knew about the problem and repointed the property between the period of exchange and completion. This was carried out very shoddily by two independent individuals. Four properties were repointed in this way. The repointing did not solve the problem because they used a similar mortar to repoint the our properties. These same bricks were used on another 18 properties in the development which also had the same problem. These were later pointed with sulfate-resisting mortar. The builder has refused to repoint the property with a sulfate-resisting mortar which would take care of the problem once and for all. The property is only 2 years old and the mortar on the property looks like it is 50 years old. I have involved the NHBC, but so far, they have taken the builders' side. I had an independent survey done which confirmed that the mortar was very soft and would have a very limited durability which means that I would need to repoint the property again in a few years time when this mortar should have lasted at least 50+ years. I would like to avoid taking court action due to the legal costs that would be involved and do not know where to turn next. I have heard that we could have a 'dispute resolution' service and maybe get a 'diminution in value' survey done but again I do not know where to start with this.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.

Alex Watts :

Hello my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply as this is not an ‘on demand’ live service, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return. There is no need to wait here, you will get an email when I reply.

Alex Watts :

Do you know the cost of repair please?

Customer:

No...not the exact amount. We did try to get an estimate from a brick repointing company...but they came and we haven't received a quote from them despite chasing it up. At the time, a sum of between £13 - £15K. But Bellway mentioned an amount of £20K during one of our meetings.

Alex Watts :

Have you had any independent survey's done please?

Customer:

Yes...we had an expert witness survey which cost a lot of money and I am hesistant to use his services again as he charges an hourly rate of £150.00. His survey report stated that "Generally, it seems as though the mortar mix on the pointing around the property varies considerably. Much of the pointing seems to be very soft and is washing away when it rains. This is easily scraped away with a thumb nail and in my opinion, is not adequate and will have a very limited life. I believe the majority of the building will require repointing and the loose mortar pointing should be scraped out and repointed as required. The majority of the right hand flank elevation is likely to require repointing along with large sections of the rear elevation and sections of the front elevation. I do have concerns that if only part of the property is repointed this will be patchy and you will get differentiation in colours across the mortar which will look unsightly. Where the property is repointed, ideally this would be done with a sulphate resisting cement."

Alex Watts :

You need to write and set out your losses and request a refund within 14 days or say you will go to Court within 14 days. You should make sure you send this recorded delivery and keep a copy.

Alex Watts :

If they do not fix the problem or pay you then you can issue proceedings in the County Court. You can either do this online at: www.moneyclaim.gov.uk or by completing form N1 http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/n001-eng.pdf and take it to your local County Court.

Alex Watts :

The Court will then issue a claim which a copy will be sent to the Defendant who will have a limited time to defend it, if not you can enter Judgment and enforce.

Alex Watts :

If the matter is defended it will be set down for a trial. If the claim is for £10,000 or less it will be a small claim and you will not need representation.


 

Alex Watts :

But as I understand it the value may be over £10,000 in which case you would need representation for the trial

Alex Watts :

The surveyor reports obtained could be used as evidence in Court proceedingss

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?

Customer:

Yes...The builder/developer (Bellway Homes Ltd) have retained the services of their own expert witness. He is an expert in bricks and mortar. An investigation was carried out by this person on the bricks and the repointed mortar. According to his findings, the property does not require any further repointing. His findings state that the sulphate attack is caused by excess sulphates in the bricks which were defective due to a problem in the manufacturer's factory. These bricks have been used by both Bellway Homes and other developers and all the properties built with these bricks have the same problems. Our issue is that our property was repointed with exactly the same mortar that was used to build the property originally since we were one of the first ones to be repointed when the problem first came to light. They hired their expert witness after we bought our properties and repointed the remaining properties in the development with sulphate resisting mortar. Therefore, our properties are still being affected by the sulfates whilst the other properties are not any more. The NHBC representative even said to me during our meeting with Bellway that he sees no reason why our properties should be repointed again. He said that in any future court proceedings, the judge would ask his opinion as the NHBC representative dealing with the case and in 99% of cases, they would take his opinion into account when making their judgement. So...you can see, I am very hesitant to proceed any further if I am already being told that I have a very little chance of winning the case.

Alex Watts :

You can instruct your own surveyor to give a second opinion

Alex Watts :

the cost may be a few hundred £ - but at least then you would know either way what the problem is.

Alex Watts :

Does that clarify the position for you?

Customer:

I think so. Would it be helpful to have a second survey by a different surveyor.!

Alex Watts :

Yes.

Alex Watts :

Then you know for sure either way

Alex Watts :

If it supports the original survey then you know at least where you stand.

Customer:

Thank you...I will go ahead with another new survey. We have another meeting with NHBC this coming Tuesday and hope we have some resolution to this problem. It has now been going on for a year.

Alex Watts :

Yes I can understand it is frustrating.

Alex Watts :

If this answers your question might I invite you to rate my answer.

Alex Watts :

If the system wont let you please let me know

Alex Watts :

If you need further help, please click reply.

Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience: Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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