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19 December 2008
Matthew Green, a four-year-old boy died from chest injuries after a 50kg (110lb) stone mantelpiece over a fireplace fell on top of him at his family home in Coulthard Close, Towcester, Northamptonshire, on 15th October 2005, an inquest jury has ruled. The jury recorded a narrative verdict after the four-day inquest held at Rushden and Diamonds Football Club in Irthlingborough.
Matthew’s parents David and Gail bought their new home from Persimmon Homes in 2003. The hearing was told that there had been "insufficient" mortar built into the mantelpiece to keep it together and no additional screws or metal dowels recommended by experts.
The verdict said the mantelpiece became detached because of a failure to apply sufficient fixings. The coroner's report said "The lack of national industry standards and regulation for the fitting of fire surrounds, including training, installation, quality inspection, secondary review and audit paper trails, were also a contributory factor,"
Persimmon Homes, which sub-contracted the fitting of the fireplaces to KD Childs, had not checked the standards and had never received documents about how fireplaces were fitted. A mantelpiece had previously fallen off at another Persimmon home but it was treated as a "one-off" incident.
The Northamptonshire assistant deputy coroner Mr Tom Osborne stated that he planned to write to the government about improving the building regulations and standards asking for a new regulation covering the fixing of mantelpieces and fireplaces. He also intended to write to Persimmon Homes in the hope the company would put in place its own standards.
During the hearing Mr Green learned that Persimmon homes had "repaired" over 120 fireplaces in the 12 months following Matthew’s death.
After the inquest Matthew's mother Gail said "This tragic incident has devastated our whole family and has been particularly traumatic for David, myself and Matthew's sister Rachel.”
Steffan Groch, Persimmon's spokesman said the company extended its deepest sympathies to the Green family for their tragic loss.
Brand-new homes website would hope that all house builders will now make the quality of the homes they build their Number One Priority. Whether regulations or standards exist or not, there is no reason why all new homes should not be properly checked. Fitted items such as fireplaces, kitchen wall cabinets etc should be properly fixed. All homes should be professionally checked by the house builder’s own site management, the building inspector and the new home warranty inspector. Increasingly, many new home owners are turning to the services of professional snagging inspectors.
29 February 2008
Energy Performance certificate will be required on every plot completed after 6th April 2008. A HIP will be required on every new home first marketed after 6th April 2008.
On 1st May 2008 mandatory ratings against Code for Sustainable Homes for new homes in England comes into effect. The Code was introduced in December 2006 as a voluntary national sustainability standard. It’s aim was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and tackle climate change, by providing clear information on the sustainability of a new property for comparison and give a framework for builders to go further and quicker than the current Building regulations require.
The NHBC’s website confirms that:
"The mandatory rating does not require a formal Code assessment to be undertaken nor any particular Code level to be achieved.
It does require Developers to 'declare' the rating of a new home, which can be done without an assessment, by using a nil-rated certificate instead.
However, there are other requirements to achieve a certain rating, such as:
- Housing Corp grant-funded Social Housing
- Developments on English Partnerships land
- Potential Planning requirements
These generally require a minimum of Code level 3 to be achieved"
In summary, if the planners or development partners don’t insist on it, developers can use a NIL rating to comply. So much for reducing red tape Mr Brown!
The legislation requires that either a Code sustainability certificate (where the home has been designed and assessed against the Code), or a Nil-rated certificate (where a home has not been assessed against the Code) must be included in the home information pack. Buyers have a right to ask for it. The only enforcing authority will be the Local Trading Standards.
29 February 2008
Figures just released from Nationwide confirm that house prices continue to fall. The latest figures show a fall of 0.5% in February. This is the fourth consecutive monthly fall and house price inflation is now at its lowest rate since November 2005. Nationwide confirm the trend in prices is definitely weakening with the average house price now £179,358.
5th May 2008
Mortgage lenders are braced for a 67 surge in repossessions this year.
New figures from the Ministry of Justice out on Friday are likely to show marked increase in court orders for repossessions.
In 1991 142,905 orders were made, falling gradually to a recent low of 41,038 in 2003. Last year the figure stood at 95,374 and the trend is definitely upwards.
2 May 2008
The main national house builder's shares have fallen further over the last two weeks.
Persimmon announced that it was suspending all new developments and restricting works on existing sites. Unsold plots are now being held at key stages, roof, drylining etc until they are sold.
From their 52 week high, the main builders shares have fallen as follows:
52 week high was
540 now 127 a fall of 76%
52 week high was
1136 now 269 a fall of 76%.
52 week high was
1443 now 582 a fall of 60%.
52 week high was
1650 now 951 a fall of 42%
6 July 2008
Taylor Wimpey has announced it is undertaking a review of all it’s operations for potential asset sales as the company tries to raise funds. Shares in the housebuilder collapsed last week after a cash injection to help ease it’s £1.7 billion-debt burden failed as investors pulled out. The company which has cut 900 jobs, has only months before it risks defaulting on its loans is under pressure to generate cash. The company is considering selling its US operation for about £500 million, it’s UK construction arm for £200 million and the Spanish operation could also go. Taylor Wimpey shares closed on Friday at 32.75 valuing the company at £346 million.
22 June 2008
Barratt Developments banks are apparently willing to waive loan covenants on its £1.7 billion of debt if the builder were to breach them. This helped shares in the company ease back to 87.75p on Friday. Barratt is expecting to make profits this year of £395 million. Share prices of rivals Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Bovis and Bellway have all fallen sharply as virtually no one is buying new homes. UK housing starts this year are expected to be the lowest level since 1945 with just 127,000 homes being built – 30% reduction on last year. Faced with the stagnation of the market builders are offering up to 50% discounts with 30% off now not uncommon. Given the current market conditions, it seems inevitable that the banks will be looking for debt of equity swaps soon and a bloodbath in the sector and it will take a long time for normality to return.
5th May 2008
Bellway has approached rival Redrow with plans for a £1.3 billion merger deal. It is thought the deal has been prompted by the credit crunch on business.
On Friday 2nd May 2008, Bellway had a stock market value of £824 million building 3252 homes last year, Redrow valued at £421 million built 2111 homes last year. Redrow has a larger landbank at 25,750 plots compared to Bellway’s 23,000 plots. The merger, if it goes ahead, would propel the new combination to number two; behind Persimmon Homes and ahead of Taylor Wimpey which merged just last year and Barratt who acquired David Wilson Homes also last year.
23 July 2008
The NHBC has reported that new home starts have fallen to just 20,973 in the period April to June 2008, a fall of 51% when compared to the same period last year. The worst hit regions are the North West and West Midlands with decreases of 58% and 57% respectively over the same period a year ago. In the first half of the year the NHBC had received just 50,110 new build applications; 42% less than in the same period last year.
10 July 2008
Barratt is axing 1200 jobs by closing two divisions and merging eight others as it tries to find savings to ease it’s financial burden. The cuts represent 15% of the 6500 workforce. Rival Galliford Try is also cutting 256 jobs at its house building division.
9 July 2008
Around 74 homes are repossessed every day at present. The number of homeowners losing their property is expected to rise to 123 a day by the end of the year according to the charity Money Advice Trust. They also report that first time buyers have on average £20,300 of debt not secured on their home.
9 July 2008
On reported falling profit margins of 14% down from 20.8%; Persimmon is to cut it’s workforce by 40% shedding 1100 full time office based staff and 900 site based workers. Analysists feel Persimmon is in better shape to ride out the current slump without having to ask for extra cash. The company had debts of £900 million well within the £1.39 billion banking facilities. The job cuts will save £20 million annually. House sales 5501 was down 31% on last year. Chief Executive Mike Farley says thus is the toughest housing market for 30 years.
9 July 2008
Both Redrow and Bovis homes have announced they are to cut 40% of their workforce with Redrow shedding 550 staff and Bovis 400.
7 July 2008
As many of the larger housebuilders mortgaged themselves up to the hilt during the recent take-over “consolidation” frenzy of recent years, raising emergency funding is now becoming essential. While banks at the moment, appear to be taking a conciliatory line on loan covenants this may not last forever and if things do not improve soon, lenders could insist on converting their debt into equity which would all but wipe out existing shareholders.
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