From: william (WILLIAMA)27 Mar 22:03
To: ALL1 of 16
Have you ever fallen foul of a bad builder? We've had some dodgy ones over the years, but none we couldn't recover from. Our house is in a row of 10 chalet-style semi-detached houses. The only odd thing is a shared drive (it's a 1930s pre-car thing) which works fine. However, what you get upstairs is a tiny bathroom and two bedrooms. There's a box-room/bedroom downstairs. As soon as we moved in, we looked at the acres of chalet roof and said, 'That would be great with a mega-dormer all the way along'. As of today 5 out of the 10 chalets have gone for it (us too) and 5 haven't. It means you can have 3 or even 4 bedrooms upstairs and a better-sized bathroom. The present regulations say this is permitted development. All of the 5 chalets that have opted for this have also gone for a rear extension (one storey -  also permitted development). You have to keep an eye on how much space you add, but once one has done the figures it's not so hard.

So our new neighbour moved in. Across the shared drive. Into an unmodified house. 

40 something professional (she's a nice lady) accompanied by Patrick (not somebody else's name) a building engineer. Patrick (she said) was a friend who could do everything. His team would transform this humble dwelling in 6 weeks. OK. He seemed the real deal at first. New boiler in within 2 days. Wiring started for underfloor heating on day 3. This is going to be a bit special. he said. No, not the boring box dormer. A higher roof, tiled all round means the steels can be hidden. And modern ventilation and insulation means that even a house that can't manage a heatpump will be the dog's bollocks.


His team was two Venezuelan builders (constantly stoned) and a couple of geezers from Hackney who couldn't build their way out of a sandcastle. 6 weeks came and went. The roof was off. Then they all disappeared and it was only Patrick. OK. He got the new roof on, after a fashion.

Oh fucking hell. I feel so sorry for her. I probably should have spoken up, but Patrick had known her for 10 years. I kind of got the feeling, quite early, that something was wrong. 

Things weren't finished. OK. I know quite often that builders get bored and swap to another job. But yeah. A bit of cladding poking out for 3 months is indicative. Tiles left half way round the roof - for ever - seem problematic. 

He built up the walls of the previous owner's conservatory using breeze blocks for a couple of layers, then a row of bricks, then more blocks to roof level. Then the roof. I thought the blocks were a bit odd. I mean, like they were level with the original bricks. So was that the finish - the final layer that the world could see? It was a bit shit. They weren't exactly decorative and there was mortar all over the place. The roof was odd too. He used a modern resin roofing compound (we have the same) but the edges didn't quite reach. Whereas ours roll seemlessly round and under, hers finish short and are sort of frayed. 

I could go on. I kept thinking 'that's not how I'd leave it' with wonky ridge tiles, insulation poking out, replacement windows that don't fit (for fuck's sake). Thing is, I'm just an a-hole who's had to build stuff over the years for lack of money. Patrick's an engineer who can do anything. 

Mainly it was the time. 6 weeks grew into 6 months. Then 10. Then they had a row. And he left. 

OK. He's used the wrong size steels on the roof, and probably for the extension. He's removed an internal structural wall and they're still checking the maths. The roofs are wrong and must be redone. The Inspector hadn't been called at the appropriate stages. The extension has been built on inadequate footings, possibly none at all. All of the wiring must be redone. All of the plumbing, including the underfloor heating must be redone. New calculations for all the steel work. The windows are all wrong and all but a couple must be replaced. He's removed the internal chimney bricks but done nothing to support the stack. This is shared with the neighbouring semi. That's urgent. The cladding would never pass building regs and must be replaced with tiles. All of the insulation throughout is inadequate and must be replaced (some can be reused elsewhere). There's a shit-load more. We've had her over crying for each and every one. For fuck's sake, he dismantled her bathroom two days before he left so she doesn't even have somewhere to wash unless she comes over here.

Then things got bad. The stupid fantasising twat told her it was all permitted development. YES! It would have been if he'd stuck to the same simple dormer roof extension that the others had. But his bright idea to hide the (wrong) steels in the roof space took the whole thing over the percentage increase allowed. Only just. But enough. Of course, this was spotted after all the changes had been done. Oh yeah, did I mention that he used the wrong size joists for the new roof? No? Course he did.

So now she needs planning permission for a shit-show where everything's fucked. 

And she just got made redundant. Not million-pound how will you spend all that redundant. The new sort where they tell you to fuck off. 

OK. Now it's your go. Ready player 2...
EDITED: 27 Mar 22:13 by WILLIAMA
From: milko28 Mar 17:25
To: william (WILLIAMA) 2 of 16
I can't write it all now but consider this a preview. I've got pics and things.

Neighbour (mid-terrace so we are attached) sold to a developer. First we know about the developer thing is when people arrive and start knocking down all sorts of things in there. No party wall agreements or anything. We start investigating/kicking up a fuss, turns out it's one of those byzantine builder hired by management agency hired by investment company deals and they are turning it into a HMO. Builder is more cowboy than John Wayne and also quite dismissive - nay, rude - to our initial attempts to find out what's going on while the agency just ignores us. So we get a bit more kicking-up-fussy in return.

They've built the shell of a rear extension twice so far and I reckon it wouldn't be that much of a surprise if they have to knock it down again yet. The whole thing's been empty and on hold all winter so it's not ideal, the interior's completely gutted and it all looks a bit of a mess. Ho hum.

From: william (WILLIAMA)28 Mar 18:01
To: milko 3 of 16
Sorry to hear that. We aren't directly impacted apart from scaffolding on the shared drive and the occasional van that absolutely must block our car in rather than use the mass of free space which is our neighbour's front garden (converted for parking). All activity has tailed off since Patrick (not real name) walked away. Apparently the council have told her that they're not going to march in and tell her to pull it down if she doesn't get planning consent, but without it she'll find it impossible to sell, or even raise funds to complete the work. Also, I discover that since he was a "friend" she has no contract, just verbal agreements.

So this development near you. Is it right next door to you or have you got a bit of a cushion? And if it's an HMO have you any idea who the tenants might be? Half a dozen students with parties every weekend wouldn't be much fun (I know because I was one of those thoughtless little morons once).
From: milko 2 Apr 21:28
To: william (WILLIAMA) 4 of 16
It's right next door to us with a shared wall. I don't think it's likely to end up being students as we're pretty far from any campus, so I expect it'll mainly be young single men with jobs. I'm not hugely worried about that although it's definitely a concern that we'll end up with some troublesome neighbours in the mix somehow. It's not going to have any communal living space for them to throw parties in aside from maybe the back garden. At some point in the next few years my son will probably be a noisy enough teenage neighbour himself too. 

Your neighbour is really living the nightmare there, that's just horrible to be going through.
From: william (WILLIAMA) 2 Apr 22:51
To: milko 5 of 16
Yeah, it is horrible. I'm beginning to worry that she might need professional help for more than the  building work. She's changed from happy, confident to dull, depressed all the time. The latest is that she's almost certain not to get planning consent even if it's all redone properly. Which means tearing loads of it down to be the same as the other houses. Luckily she seems to have a more competent builder now. He seems shocked by the state of things. Yesterday he came and asked if it was OK to leave a couple of steels across the drive for an hour or so. I said 'no problem' and he confided that he thought it was even worse than he realised when he started.

The real killer is that Patrick told her it was going to be so amazingly special. And she believed him. But I think he probably did himself.
From: milko 3 Apr 10:31
To: william (WILLIAMA) 6 of 16
In fairness I find it pretty rare that a builder/tradesman doesn't act quite shocked at the state of things, it's like mechanics doing that sucking teeth thing before they tell you the whole engine's got to come out, it's gonna be more than the car's worth. But in this case, maybe accurate. And yeah, Patrick probably had a dream but bit off more than he could chew and now he's legged it like a coward.
From: milko 3 Apr 11:27
To: ALL7 of 16
So, in July last year, this went up next door in a bit of a hurry, while all the internal walls etc of the existing build were knocked out.

Like I said earlier, no notice or communication given, they just cracked on at a mad pace, they also knocked half the roof out for a dormer conversion at the same time.

Putting that scaffolding on top of the extension seemed a brave move. They actually did that after most of the roof work had been done without any, just dudes climbing around a building. When the builder got wind we were looking at it and complaining about things they slapped some render up quick to try and hide the dodgy unsafe blockwork. More knowledgable people saw my photos and tell me they're a wrong type of block as well, there's just an awful lot wrong with the thing. Yes the heights of the opening are uneven. The roof is apparently just celotex insulation sat on uneven boards, it's very odd. We tracked down the managing agency who were extremely evasive and outright lying about stuff, lots of weasel people involved, we also contacted the council. Building Control at the council washed their hands of it entirely because the agents had engaged an independent building control company to review the work - so we spoke to them as well. They wouldn't tell us much ("data protection"), said they were on top of it and all is fine, but at first were unaware the work had even started so big suspicions about them as well, can quite well imagine they'd look the other way for problems in exchange for money. The council did say to keep an eye on any breaches of the terms of the HMO licence, so I suppose that's one for the future. Tina had spoken to the builder a few times, initially as a "oh, hello, what's happening here then?" and then more of a "what the fuck are you actually doing and who's in charge" kind of a way. They were weaselly liars about what was happening, as well as entirely dismissive/insulting about the impact it was all having on the neighbours either side. The owner of the house on the other side is a local landlord so he had a few connections as well, seems like a nice enough bloke and we kind of teamed up to work on it. The managing agency sent a minion to talk to us all, who acted like it was all a big shock and news to him that the building had been done this way, and "we always have party wall agreements in place first" and blah blah... except that I worked out his personal email address was included in our initial "what are you actually doing here" emails from weeks before so yep, weasels all the way down.

At some point in all this some men from oop North came to inspect it, evidently further up the chain to the owner company (a slum landlord property company a provider of low cost social housing). Tina popped out to say hi and they were absolutely slating the build, all the things we'd spotted and more besides. Belatedly, a surveyor gets in touch with us and we end up with a surveyor at their expense for a retrospective party wall agreement of some kind - this is essentially useless legally since the notifiable works had all been done but we did get a couple of hundred quid compensation for minor plaster cracks caused by their internal demolition work.

Then this happened:
PXL-20230818-174408677 PXL-20230818-134758729  
haha! They even ended up drilling out all of the concrete foundation works. The roof and scaffolding were just being held up on those temporary supports for a bit. The builder looked rather sad. I almost felt sorry for him - no doubt he's not going to be getting paid for all this extra work - but well, he was a fucking arsehole, so I don't. Then they built it again a bit more properly:
PXL-20230907-172757060 PXL-20230827-145721460-MP  
I still don't know what the hell's going on with that roof but at least the blockwork is a bit more evenly spaced, and so on.

This was all back in August. They haven't been back since apart from one visit. The upstairs windows have been open to the elements and wildlife all winter and the gardens are a mess. The northern inspectors came back a few months later, and I overheard them telling someone outside "Honestly, I'm surprised the guy still works for you" but that's about it. Presumably they'll restart works again sooner or later, or maybe not! I hope we don't need to sell our place while it's all going on still! Also, I really hope we cost the slum landlord people some time/energy/money in all of this.
From: Dan (HERMAND) 3 Apr 13:03
To: milko 8 of 16
I built my own little extension the other year so I feel qualified to comment that that is absolutely fucking attrocious, and utterly hilarious for a professional. Don't even know where to start, but christ.
From: milko 4 Apr 13:08
To: ALL9 of 16
Funnily enough they're sort of back today! A surveyor went in to see what's going on and if their plans can even be done. Apparently they're trying to find a new contractor to do whatever work, but it's the same owners and management company still.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 4 Apr 17:07
To: milko 10 of 16
From: william (WILLIAMA) 4 Apr 17:27
Only 40 of the proposed 85 storeys. Half-cocked comes to mind.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 4 Apr 18:13
To: william (WILLIAMA) 12 of 16
The developer was inexperienced. Glad the banks were willing to overlook that!
From: william (WILLIAMA) 4 Apr 20:49
To: milko 13 of 16
I suppose the thing is, there's a limit to what you can do with a terraced property. I mean, extension, two storey extension, roof extension. And then you get into issues with planning consent. But there's no limit to the problems that a yippee-yi-yo posse of builders can cause.

Next door, a more down-to-earth pair of builders have become regulars. They've already done more in a week than Patrick managed in two months. I was very impressed yesterday. Two of them manouevered a huge new roof steel in through a tiny hole they'd cut in the wall with no more than well-placed straps. By evening the hole was patched. The neighbour says it's all in place and they've already started on new wooden joists.
From: Gobfounded (YVE) 4 Apr 22:44
To: william (WILLIAMA) 14 of 16
You can build a bungalow, sorry a home gym, in the back garden of a terrace!

Our issues with neighbour's building work have been mild, compared with yours. When we moved in here, just over 6 years ago - also a 1930s semi detached chalet bungalow, which we love because we have 3 small doubles upstairs and downstairs is massive - there was an old guy with what I suspect was parkinson's next door. He was past being lucid. After he died, the house eventually sold to the same wannabe landlord who also bought 2 other nearby houses. He's a cheapskate, taking advantage of eye watering rents here, near the hospital and university, so thankfully wasn't so ambitious with his plans. He employed some seasoned bodgers to tweak it and literally paint over the mould, though.

The first we knew of them was a day of guys bringing the crap out of the garden across the road and dumping it in the front garden next door. Oh, you should expect some mess with building work, they said to Wib. Wib is too nice because the pile got bigger and bigger and they only got someone to take away what they couldn't hide in or behind the shed when they needed room for an estate agent to take pics.

They paid someone to spend a day bagging up all the red gravel in the front garden, after that, so they could replace it with grey gravel. Within a month you couldn't see it for the weeds they hadn't touched.

They badly painted the ugly grey pebbledash. To do that, they removed the guttering and didn't put it back at all for weeks and then eventually put it back badly. The result was all that heavy rain from those storms at the end of last summer pissed all over our front wall with the inevitable consequences.

Some mugs did move in, back in October. Our front doors are at opposite sides of a 50' wide building so they have managed to avoid us in all that time.

As well as a leaky roof (not fixed by the bodgers even though the bedroom ceilings were badly water stained in the estate agent pics) they had obviously complained about the crap in the shed because a hippo bag appeared in the front garden at the start of this year. They're no better than the landlord and his bodgers because they seemed to be using it instead of the wheel bins for their own rubbish like shoe boxes, yoghurt pots, bags of carrots, the packaging off the flat pack they assembled at midnight, one Sunday....

Wib has stopped being too nice and complained to the council about that mess, as it was blowing into our garden and we already have too many rats around here, so that finally went last week. The poor guy had to use his wheelie bin, like the rest of us.
EDITED: 4 Apr 22:49 by YVE
From: milko 6 Apr 16:36
To: milko 15 of 16
Worked out that we have new neighbours! Fairly sure that some foxes have moved in. Good luck to ‘em.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)15 Apr 14:53
To: ALL16 of 16