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A Cautionary Tale


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Some French friends of ours have recently ‘won’ a 5year legal battle with a builder.

They bought a house that was advertised and sold as a New Build. 6 months down the line a full structural survey revealed several serious faults and some major breaches of Building Regulations. When they contacted the builder he informed them that no insurance had been taken out as part of the property was built on an existing slab therefore it was a Refurbishment and not a New Build, which also meant the Building Regulations in question, did not apply!

Fortunately the courts did not agree and after 2 years of hearings and appeals, with every judgment in there favour, the court offered them either full restitution or the property rebuilt to the appropriate standards. As the rebuild would mean them moving out for at least 6 months and there was another property for sale close by they decided to leave. At this point the builder’s legal team went into appeal overdrive and far from being over and finished they managed to drag the case out for another 3 years!

The case is now finally over, no more appeals, that’s it. Our friends have won, but have not come out on top!

They are to receive full re-imbursement of all monies paid, plus interest at Bank rate and all costs This is the deal they agreed to 3 years ago, Bank interest rather than ‘current market value’ to get out and get on with there lives. However those extra 3 years delay mean property prices in our area have risen by over 40% since they first bought, which is well above Bank interest rate. As all the delays were on the part of the builder who had never won a round of the case, they applied for, and won, additional compensation. However in the builder’s final appeal he claimed this was unjust as our friends had lived there ‘rent free’ for 5 years and this had also prevented him from making good the property and re-selling it!

Unbelievably the appeal court accepted this argument and reversed the earlier decision which means that rather than spending the rest of there retirement in a new, well insulated, low maintenance home, our friends are now forced to look at old rundown properties in need of renovation. The builder on the other hand is laughing, the same rise in property value means he has already covered most of his costs and by the time the remedial work is done and the house resold he is very likely to still turn a profit on the whole thing!  

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