A couple who claim their £385,000 new-build had an 'unusable' kitchen after collecting their keys say they have lost hope in their fight for justice.
Sallyann Smith, 23, and finance Gareth Hawkins, 26, were initially due to move into their three-bed home – a property built by Crest Nicholson - in Maldon, Essex, last June.
However a day before, and after paying developer Crest Nicholson around £30,500, they say they were told the property had no services – including no heating.
The hold-ups, which Ms Smith says was followed by several more weeks of delays, meant they missed out on the stamp duty holiday, which added £3,000 to their fees.
“The issues on their end meant we were going to have to find thousands of pounds extra to cover the tax charges,” Sallyann told The Mirror. “We’re first-time buyers on a really tight budget, we really needed the support of the stamp duty holiday.
“We asked if they would pay it for us or take if off the house price – but they refused.” she said.
“We’d already paid the deposit by that point so we felt backed into a corner.”
Eventually, the couple picked up the keys on July 29, but three days later, they claim they discovered the kitchen had a severe mould infestation.
“We also had no extractor fans so couldn’t use the kitchen to cook. It was unusable.”
Sallyann, who was seven months pregnant at the time, said: “I saw mould under the kitchen cupboards so I emailed Crest Nicholson and they agreed to deal with it – but after that it was radio silence.
“The bottom of the skirting board was covered in black, thick mould.
“A manager eventually agreed investigate it. In September, someone came to inspect the property. But then the site manager left the company, and things went from bad to worse,” Ms Smith claims.
“A person was sent out to clean it, but we asked for a new unit because of the severe damp damage.
“They took the kitchen apart and a temperature check on the walls by a damp specialist we hired ourselves found the property's walls were 99.9% wet.
“After that, the team put the kitchen back but left the oven out, the cupboards were taken out and there were holes in the wall. This went on for a week.
“At one point one of the customer services employees came in and said it smelt bad to which I responded I know and you expect me to live like this.
“We were left with literally no kitchen - back to the bare block because of mould.
“I was washing my dishes in the dining room with a bucket while eight months pregnant,” she added.
“The house was effectively sold to us unfinished. So much so that we had to move out and live with family."
Crest Nicholson offered to put the buyers in a hotel, but Ms Smith said the thought of living in a hotel for months while heavily was pregnant left her extremely worried.
Six months later, they finally have a working kitchen, but they claim they have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket.
"We are now financially out of pocket from having to buy food out, go to family members who live 30 miles away for dinner and wash our clothes at a launderette.
“Crest Nicholson agreed to pay our £330 energy bill because we had to have a dehumidifier running solid for six weeks.
“But we had to move out, so we were paying for that, the mortgage, water, council tax and all other costs in a property that we couldn’t live in.”
Sallyann, disappointed with the service, claims she was blocked from commenting on Crest Nicholson’s Facebook page after addressing her concerns on social media.
She alleges that the regional director of the company asked her to “hold off of the NHBC survey until Crest Nicholson have redeemed themselves because a bad review will affect Crest Nicholson.”
NHBC is a 10-year guarantee that applies on all new-builds in England.
To date, Sallyann and her partner have written to Crest Nicholson four times about having their extra charges covered.
“The house was inhabitable. I have sent them the breakdown of costs four times.
“It amounts to around £5,000, including all the times I had to miss work because I’d been told someone was coming to inspect the property – when often no one turned up.”
They are still waiting for the regional director to get back to them on a final decision.
Separate employees at the company allegedly told the couple that as a company policy, Crest Nicholson does not pay compensation.
The company, which reported a pre-tax profit of £86.9million last year, refused to cooperate when approached by The Mirror.
It offered to cover £500 of the expenses incurred – just 10% of the money the couple say they have lost as a result of their failures.
A spokeswoman shared the following statement and added that someone would be in touch with the couple directly.
However, they have since received a letter stating they have "ceased any contact" with the buyers because they approached a newspaper.
A statement said: “We are aware of Mrs Smith’s concerns and, following various assessments, have now successfully completed all works relating to her kitchen.
“We continue to be in conversation with Mrs Smith and hope to draw the matter to a satisfactory close for all parties concerned as soon as possible.”