New-build homes falling down before they can catch fire

fire damaged building

Home owners in Kent fear their new home is unsafe after they were awoken in the middle of the night with a ‘massive crash’ as part of the house fell away. The owners of the £380,000 house described their horror as a section outside the bedroom simply fell away, leaving debris and concrete on the doorstep. The weight of the debris also brought down the porch canopy.

The brand new home was built by Charles Church which is a brand of one of the largest housing developers in the UK, Persimmon Homes.

The first-time owners moved into their home in Upper Harbledown, Canterbury, in December 2018. However, they now say their trust and security in the building has ‘completely gone’ after the ‘horrendous’ experience and have since found a further 40 issues with their property.

Scaffolding has been erected all round the house as well as another dozen properties on the same development, as a precaution. Property owners agree that the developers were quick to respond but say they need reassurance that their homes are indeed safe.

Persimmon has said it is investigating and carrying out ‘precautionary work’ on adjacent homes, and is trying to resolve the situation safely and speedily whilst ensuring that inconvenience to customers “is kept to an absolute minimum”.

The owners of another property on the site say they have experienced many other issues with their new home and have already replaced the bathroom within two years. The flooring has been completely re-done and they have asked for the carpets to be refitted properly. Another complaint related to drainage issues within the home.

Other neighbours have criticised Persimmon Homes’ ‘shoddy workmanship and poor maintenance’ services. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said one resident. “We pay £350 in maintenance charges but for what?”

Missing fire barriers

The issues come in the wake of fire safety concerns in March and May this year, when it was found that homes built by Persimmon Homes and Bellway Homes had potentially dangerous fire safety issues. New build homes that had been constructed by both companies were found to be sold with missing or incorrectly installed fire barriers. These are usually installed to halt the progress of fire and can potentially save lives. In some cases, it was reported that the lack of fire barriers contributed to the spread of fire that had destroyed homes. Both Persimmon Homes and Bellway Homes said that they were addressing the issue.

In timber-framed buildings and in many new build properties, fire barriers are vital and Building Regulations require by law that fire protection must be included. These precautions delay the spread of fire and allow crucial time for occupants to escape. Without the barriers that form a complete seal between the main areas of the home, fire and smoke can spread between five and ten times faster.

Ensuring that buildings are compliant with Building Regulations is ultimately the responsibility of the house builder and/or company.

If you have any concerns about a new build property you have recently purchased or any structural concerns about an older property, contact one of our chartered surveyors who can assist.

Back to September 2019 Newsletter