‘My £420k dream home was never finished but the developer kept my deposit’

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dear Katie,

I am writing to ask for your help in recovering £42,000 which I paid as a deposit to a property developer. I’m 64 and was looking for my dream home for the rest of my life. I thought I found it on a new build project at West Chevington Farm in Northumberland.

The brochure looked absolutely stunning. My home would have vaulted ceilings, oak beams and a quality open plan kitchen. At £420,000 it wasn’t cheap but it was everything I wanted and more.

I reserved the house in April 2020 and exchanged it in January 2021. I sold my house, put my stuff away and moved in with my brother in Scotland, which I figured would only take a few weeks. At the time, I never would have thought that more than 18 months would go by without the house being finished.

When we exchanged the contracts, the completion date was supposed to be March 24, 2021. I was given a number of new “long stop” dates that never materialized. In October 2021 I was given December 17th as the completion date.

Finally, in November 2021, the developer admitted that they did not yet have land access to my property and that it would likely be another year or two before it was granted. I was absolutely beside myself.

Then there were problems with the deposit. I was under the impression that my 10 percent deposit went into escrow with developer Genesis One’s attorney.

That meant I would get my money back if anything went wrong. However, it turns out that my deposit was actually paid “as a broker”, meaning my money wasn’t protected and went straight to the construction company that built the house.

In January 2022, my attorney requested a “Notice of Completion” which the developer didn’t do because the house wasn’t finished yet. I was devastated. I was waiting for my £42,000 security deposit to be returned and was hoping to also be able to recover some of the thousands I had paid to store all my belongings since selling my house in August 2020. This was previously promised to me by Genesis One.

However, I have not received anything. I’ve been promised my money back several times but it never comes. Letters from my lawyer, emails and phone calls from me have all been ignored. The emotional, financial, and physical toll on me was debilitating.

I’ve worked hard my whole life and made it as a single mom on just one wage, but I still hid money for my retirement thinking I was being sensible. I have no way of replacing this money. My £42,000 could have accrued investment returns in my sipp and I also paid £100 a week for a storage unit for 18 months.

– RR, Scotland

Dear Reader,

You wrote to me in January of this year and at that point you were at the end of your tether after receiving one broken promise after another. The vision for your dream retirement has turned into a nightmare. Instead of picking out rugs and lampshades for your fancy new barn like you envisioned, you camp out in a small room at your brother’s house like a rudderless teenager. It was absolutely unfortunate for you.

You choked when you told me that the construction company behind the project, Genesis One, originally called Platinum Homes, had talked you into participating in a public relations campaign. When you placed your reservation you willingly took part in a BBC Look NorthEast interview and later in an interview with Luxe magazine, in which you described how delighted you were to have bought one of these fabulous new homes.

They posed with their fluffy golden retriever sporting a Cheshire cat grin, a vision of blissful early retirement. They told the interviewer, “I feel so fortunate to have these amazing people building my forever home. This house is made with love – it’s not just a construction site. They weren’t just thrown up. It’s going to be something very special.” Now, of course, those words are enough to make you sick.

What you said next was, perhaps in hindsight, a portent for the future. They told the magazine: “It was very surprising at first because it wasn’t until I arrived that I was told that my house wasn’t actually built. I was expecting to see a house about six weeks before completion. So it was a bit confusing when I stopped and there was nothing on my property.”

You went on to describe how the project managers had assured you that you could change anything you wanted.

Yet when I asked Genesis One what had happened, it told me that the delay in building the house was partly due to significant changes they requested to the design, including a garage remodel and interior wall remodeling that required additional planning required approval not yet granted.

However, they say the garage remodeling was an idea of ​​Genesis One. You say you were told that planning permission was granted for this a long time ago and I can’t find anything on the Northumberland City Council website on these specific issues for your property.

If you had been told that this was a problem, you said you would have discarded the changes in order to close the deal.

It seems that the real reason your lot wasn’t completed is a dispute between Genesis One and the farmer who owns the surrounding land over car access to the houses. This seemingly “make or break” issue was still unresolved as of October 2021, when you received written assurances that your graduation date would be December 17, 2021.

When I contacted the company in February, a Genesis One director also blamed “the damage caused during the pandemic” for development delays. He hinted that writing a negative article in this newspaper could result in more buyers pulling out or making it impossible to sell the remaining homes on the property.

Obviously this man was used to the media gulping down his nonsense, but he must have thought I would have been born yesterday if I accepted that Covid apology and dropped your story “to protect others”.

That means he promised to return your money. He said: “We will of course refund the customer’s deposit in due course and we have never refused to pay it. We are aware that we are contractually obliged to do so. Unfortunately we are unable to pay any compensation as we have incurred significant costs in customizing the client and we now have an unsaleable property pending planning permission.”

When I pressed him for a date to return your deposit he said she would be back with you on June 30th. I was willing to wait until then before posting this story hoping for a happy ending for you. We waited patiently, giving him one last chance to keep his word. A few weeks before the deadline, he sent you and the other unfinished home buyers a letter promising to return your down payments. It seemed reassuring, but you were cautious and didn’t allow yourself more than a glimmer of hope.

We were both disappointed when your instincts proved right. At 3pm on June 30, you had heard nothing and received no money. I asked for confirmation that it was on the way.

At 5pm I was told the refund had been “delayed” and would take a few more weeks. I was hoping that my intervention could end this pattern of broken promises, especially given the legal obligation to return your money. But it shouldn’t be. In the end, you made the painful decision to accept that your dream home was dead in the water and found another place to live.

You still have £42,000 plus utilities down and have bought another house which you feel is boxy and unexciting compared to the beautiful West Chevington Farm House.

I am angry and frustrated with how this case turned out. Anyone considering purchasing a new development should indeed think very carefully before proceeding. Never send your deposit to an unprotected account unless you can afford to lose it. ‘My £420k dream home was never finished but the developer kept my deposit’

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