Residents’ sinking homes payout

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RESIDENTS in an area blighted by sinking homes have finally secured a seven-figure sum in damages after winning a court battle.

People living in the Eden Park development, in Hartlepool, mounted a legal battle when it emerged their homes had suffered defects and damage as a result of defenctive piling.

Many of the residents on the 94-home estate, off Hart Lane, were shocked to find their homes effectively sinking after cracks were discovered in 2003.

Shepherd Homes built the development between 2002 and 2004 on land once used to store builders’ waste.

Last July, Mr Justice Ramsey found Shepherd Homes liable to each of the 10 lead claimants for breaches of their Buildmark Cover and the Defective Premises Act 1972

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After an initial hearing on May 3, yesterday in the Court of Appeal the company’s appeal was rejected and damages to 10 claimants was agreed, ranging from £65,000 to almost £125,000, calculated on the basis of the loss in value of the affected properties.

Shepherd Homes’ final bill will be much larger than the initial payout, as it has used the judge’s ruling to settle all but three of 47 remaining claims from other homeowners suffering defects in their properties.

Although Shepherd Homes accepted the judge’s findings on its liability to pay, it claimed that the judge went too far in the way he calculated damages taking various issues into account including whether mortgages could be obtained in respect of the properties.

Shepherd Homes argued that the judge should have found that all of the properties were either mortgageable or unmortgagable, and that

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the figures he had then used to calculate the losses of the home owners were too high.

But in his ruling, one of the country’s top judges, Lord Justice Aikens, said the judge considered all the evidence about the 10 houses collectively and individually.

He had also born the views of experts in mind as well.

He said that in the circumstances the court was not convinced that the figure chosen by the judge was outside the reasonable band within which the judge could have assessed the percentage for diminution in value of the properties.

He also rejected a claim that the judge’s decision to allow further payments to cover the costs of minor remedial works over the next 20 years constituted “double recovery”.

He said that the judge’s approach was “proper and cannot be criticised”, adding: “He did not award an element of double recovery.”

In his ruling last year, the High Court judge said: “There can be no question that the claimants have each suffered from the fact that the houses which they bought have had defective piles. It has caused them worry and concern and prevented them from moving home when they wanted to or from fully enjoying the houses which they have purchased.

“In such circumstances, there is great sympathy with the position in which the claimants have found themselves and an obvious wish to provide the claimants with proper damages.”

He added: “On the basis of my findings on these lead cases it is hoped that the parties will be able to resolve the claims on the remaining properties.”

It is understood the residents have signed a confidentiality agreement as part of the legal fight, and none of them were willing to speak about the situation when approached by the Mail yesterday.