Warning on rogue builders

By Brian Hayward
ROGUE builders cashing in on the building boom in the Eastern and Southern Cape have led to a massive increase in consumer unhappiness, with tens of thousands of complaints – mostly about shoddy workmanship – received by municipalities and industry watchdogs in the past year.
And, they say, part of the problem is a dire lack of experience, with most builders having less than five years’ experience in the field – many attracted by the huge demand for building in the region.
The fact that many homeowners are looking for the cheapest quote is also resulting in poor workmanship, they claim.
Colin Pollock, regional manager of the National Home Builders’ Registration Council (NHBRC), said the buoyant industry was the reason for the increase in problems experienced by home owners, with a rise of more than 30% in complaints to the organisation this year.
“Seventy per cent of the builders in Nelson Mandela Bay have been in the industry for under five years,” he said.
All builders are required by law to join the NHBRC.
Master Builders’ Association regional director Greg Steele agreed that a shortage of qualified builders had exacerbated problems in the industry.
“The building industry is often regarded as an easy industry to enter. As a result many would-be contractors are able to give quotations without any knowledge or experience of building,” he said.
“There has definitely been an increase in the number of complaints received by the MBA over the past 12 months, mostly involving non-members. In almost all cases no evidence of any formal building contract exists,” Steele said.
With about 11 000 buildings going up in Nelson Mandela Bay over the past year alone, the municipality said they had received about 60 000 complaints and inquiries during the same period from concerned residents who fear that the quality of building taking place is not up to scratch.
City chief building inspector Christo Pheiffer said the areas from which most of the complaints had been received included those with high building activity, like Kabega, Summerstrand and Lorraine.
“Most of the complaints are about the poor workmanship of buildings, which our inspectors then check up on,” Pheiffer said. “People also complain about the rubble, dust and the noise created by builders.”
The MBA’s Steele emphasised the importance of contracts between home owners and builders. “Home owners who have used a MBA member can approach the MBA for assistance,” he said. But home owners without any formal building contract had little or no recourse against their builder.
“No matter how small the job, a contract or some form of written agreement is always advisable. Rushing into a building project without proper thought or preparation and with the wrong contractor can be a very costly exercise.”
But even builders registered with reputable associations such as the NHBRC or the MBA were not necessarily up to scratch, as former Proteas fast bowler Nantie Hayward discovered when he returned this season to play for the Warriors.
According to Hayward, the building of his Winterhoek Park Tuscan home turned into a nightmare after the builder – registered with the NHBRC and strongly recommended by Hayward’s architect – took 14 months longer than promised and left the house “merely a shell without windows or window frames”.
The builder also allegedly forged the cricketer’s signature in faxes to Hayward’s bank, requesting a payment of R300 000 which the bank paid out while Hayward was on tour with his team. Hayward would not reveal the name of the builder as he was still consulting his lawyers about the matter.
Meanwhile, residents of a townhouse complex in Macon Road, Lorraine, are distraught over problems with their developer, which culminated in a letter from the municipality last week indicating that up to seven homes were not registered by the developer, and therefore illegal.
“We are waiting for feedback from the authorities while the developer stalls by telling them he’s working on it. So many things have gone wrong and we are so frustrated,” said a resident who wished to remain anonymous for fear of further non-compliance by the developer.
Three home owners do not have occupational certificates – legally required before home owners move into their homes and which are the responsibility of the developer to obtain.
A further 14 are not registered with the NHBRC – another legal requirement under the Housing Consumer Protection Measures Act, which covers both the builder and the home owner against certain structural defects for up to five years. But according to the developer, Bluewater Bay’s Sarel van der Walt, late enrolment of houses to the NHBRC was an “administration error” and would be attended to next week.
Van der Walt is temporarily suspended from the NHBRC until he has paid his late enrolment fees and does not belong to the MBA.
Occupational certificates would be issued to owners on completion of the complex in August next year, he said.

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