'Cracks could cost me my home' says owner after losing a ten year long dispute (From The Oxford Times)
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'Cracks could cost me my home'
CRACKS from building work that should have cost £3,000 to repair have left a dad-of-two with a £100,000 bill and the likely loss of his home.
Mike Ferguson decided in 2004 he would convert the basement of his home in Bullingdon Road, East Oxford, into a flat and hired in builders to help.
But the work led to cracks appearing in the wall the house shared with a property owned by housing association A2 Dominion, and a near decade-long legal dispute that has resulted in Mr Ferguson facing the £100,000 bill.
He says the ruling from a High Court judge is out of proportion with the damage caused as the work only cost him £6,000 to survey and £2,925 to repair. But A2 Dominion said it only sued the IT worker for the damage after failing to agree an out-of-court settlement.
Last night Mr Ferguson said he faced having to sell the property, adding: “It feels like I have been paraded out in front of the firing squad and they are ready to take it all away from me because everything I have is in my house.”
Oxford City Council had granted planning permission for the work to lower the basement by about a metre and Mr Ferguson remortgaged the house to do the works that he hoped would bring in more money for his family.
He was the project manager for the work and consulted engineers and surveyors before hiring labourers to do the work.
He said the work was inspected and approved by city council building control officers.
He said the cracks did not make the next-door property unstable and he and his wife and two children had lived in their house throughout the build.
The work was finally finished in 2009 and the first tenants moved in in 2011. Mr Ferguson now rents the studio flat out for more than £600 a month.
He said: “It was minisucle. It was not the major problem A2Dominion made it out to be.
“They have been relentless with me to the detriment of my family and to the extent of my family it feels like I have been in a war zone with A2Dominion.
“The army of resources they have put behind this domestic issue is unbelievable and totally unwarranted.”
Mr Ferguson said the case could have been settled earlier if A2Dominion had not tried to get compensation for loss of rent after claiming the home had become uninhabitable due to the work – a claim the firm dropped in 2012 before a trial at Oxford County Court. The final figure was determined by a High Court judge in January.
But the housing association, which is also now set to collect eight per cent interest on the figure every year, says the costs order did not cover lost rent.
Charles Gildersleve, A2Dominion’s assistant director of property services, said the work had caused serious damage and raised safety concerns about tenants in the neighbouring property.
He said: “Taking the matter to court was a last resort, but in 2007 we felt we had no choice but to issue legal proceedings.
“At a trial at Oxford County Court in March 2012, A2Dominion provided all its evidence to the court and was successful.”
He added: “A2Dominion has no intention of obtaining any costs other than those that the court has ordered are due.
“As a not-for-profit charitable organisation providing housing for people in need, we look forward to this being resolved as soon as possible.”
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