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Campaign for new-build home owners' rights gathers pace

Consumer rights campaigner John Gaskell has been delighted by interest from around the country to secure better protection for new-build home buyers.

His poor experience of buying a house with his wife in Whittlesford in 2019, and their ensuing battles with developers to fix outstanding problems estimated at £35,000-£45,000, led him to set up Homebuyers Fightback in February.

Following an article in the Cambridge Independent, John has been contacted by new home owners from around the country - from Yorkshire to Devon and locally. He said common factors were poor quality control, shoddy workmanship, developers hiding behind exclusion clauses, inadequate warranties, and an underlying mentality of ‘let the victim pay’.

John Gaskell, from Whittlesford, founder of Homebuyers Fightback. Picture: Keith Heppell (46648245)
John Gaskell, from Whittlesford, founder of Homebuyers Fightback. Picture: Keith Heppell (46648245)

He said: “Developers frequently try their best to walk away from problems they have caused by shoddy workmanship and the woefully inadequate consumer protections, where limited supply means sellers have the power to exploit.

“It seems to me that many players exhibit an amoral mentality, saying one thing in public but behaving very differently behind the scenes. The sector seems to operate in an integrity vacuum. Developers and house builders run their sales pitches and if anyone challenges them, they deploy bully-boy corporate lawyers to try to avoid liability.”

Making the most of collective power, neighbours at John’s small development have formed a residents’ association. John said: “At our inaugural Zoom get together, I soon realised many of my neighbours were also struggling to get the developer to fully accept responsibility to address the defects.”

One home owner said their experience of buying their first home had been ruined by shoddy work and the developer’s failure to answer emails or put things right without constant pressure. Another said they had been shocked by the state of their new home when they got the keys, and the developer had failed to meet its claims to be an ethical organisation that treated its customers with respect.

John added: “The mentality of expecting victims to foot the bill is simply unacceptable. It is reminiscent of what has happened to leaseholders with the cladding scandal, where some people are even being made bankrupt because of the fault of others.

“The issue of developers trying to avoid or limit their liability, and problems with inadequate warranties, were all identified in the 2016 Parliamentary All-Party investigation into the new-build sector.”

John is campaigning for a home buyers’ charter and a new homes ombudsman and raised £3,000 through a CrowdJustice campaign to help meet legal expenses.

And he issued a challenge to every developer: “My challenge is they commit to building homes with due care skill and diligence to a professional standard, and when they fail to deliver, they should put matters right with minimum delay and distress. If their CEO cannot stand behind that promise, why would anyone want to buy a home from them?”

Contact homebuyersfightback@btinternet.com and follow @Homebuyersfigh1 on Twitter.

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