My SO Home: No. 13

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Jamie Flarry shares some tips for anyone purchasing a new-build shared ownership house.

“On the day we moved in my partner, Sarah, sat on the floor and cried her eyes out. Our new-build shared ownership house wasn’t exactly the dream home we were expecting”.

We started off house hunting in Aston Clinton, near the Chiltern Hills. Then we realised property was less expensive in nearby Leighton Buzzard. That difference in property prices meant we could afford a 50% share in a 4-bedroom new-build house. It was perfect for us. We wanted a forever home; somewhere large enough to raise a family. Also the location was ideal, near where I work.

We made an off-plan reservation, and drove up to look at the house a couple of times. But we weren’t allowed inside until the builder, Persimmon Homes, handed it over to the housing association, Hightown Housing Association. Hightown told us we didn’t need a full Homebuyer’s report with it being a new-build property. I’m not even sure our mortgage provider looked at it; I think they did a desktop evaluation.

Our new-build shared ownership home had more than 400 defects

On the day we moved in we realised straightaway the workmanship was shoddy throughout. We found over 400 snagging issues; some of them major and some of them silly little things that you just don’t expect with a new-build shared ownership property.

There were so many problems Hightown Housing Association even offered to buy our share back. But that didn’t make financial sense for. us. We’ve incurred substantial costs including Stamp Duty, legal fees, valuation fees and removal costs. Obviously, we wouldn’t get any of that reimbursed, so we’d end up with less cash than we started with. All we want is for our home to be made good up to the standard it should have been in the first place. It’s a matter of principle.

We’ve been fobbed off and lied to

At the moment, the Housing Ombudsman is reviewing five complaints on how Hightown Housing Association dealt with us. Hightown originally said that any defects would be fixed within 28 days. But the builder told us they have no obligation to rectify anything up until the one year defect period is up, so we were mis-sold in that respect.

The past 18 months have been horrible. We’ve been fobbed off and lied to. The Sun published a feature on our experience in early 2020. The next day I met the CEO of Hightown, David Bogle, with my local MP to discuss the problems we’ve experienced. But the situation still isn’t resolved.

As a result of our experience, I’ve joined the Housing Ombudsman’s new Residents Panel. The Housing Ombudsman set up the panel to learn from residents’ complaints in order to inform their new corporate plan and business plan.

My tips for buying a new-build shared ownership property

  • Download the technical manual from the insurance warranty provider and snag the property yourself when you view it.
  • Get written confirmation from the housing association as to how any builder defects will be resolved.
  • Choose your own solicitor, don’t use one from the housing association’s recommended panel.
  • Don’t allow your housing association to bully you. Raise complaints via the formal written complaints process, and make sure to raise each individual complaint separately. That way it’s easier to escalate specific complaints to the Housing Ombudsman if you need to.
  • Consider getting involved in your housing association’s scrutiny panel. Tenants scrutiny panels hold housing associations to account, and work with them to improve their services.

UPDATE 6 December 2021

As reported in this Daily Mail feature (1 December 2021) Persimmon initially offered Jamie and Sarah £2,000 to have things fixed themselves if they signed a non-disclosure agreement. This was later raised to a final offer of £7,000. Jamie went back to his warranty company, Premier Guarantee, who confirmed that 270 of the issues he had reported should be fixed, and eventually paid out £12,000 in July 2021.

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