Family found rural idyll was in danger of collapsing: Owners claim surveyor failed to warn of serious structural defects and seek pounds 75,000 compensation from his employer
Monday 13 December 1993
Steel props installed more than three years ago as an emergency measure to stop the house collapsing are still in place. Now the Marsdens are suing Prudential Property Services, an arm of the Prudential Corporation, for pounds 75,000, arguing that their troubles started with a negligent structural survey of the house before they bought it.
'They employed somebody to do a structural survey who did not have the required expertise and we have advice from more than 20 experts that he was negligent,' said Mr Marsden, 33, a marketing consultant.
Mr Marsden and his wife, who have four young children, were living in London when they bought Hill House in Sapiston, near Bury St Edmunds. They decided that she would bring up the family while he commuted to work. Mr Marsden said: 'It was supposed to provide us with a better quality of life, but it has turned out to be a nightmare.'
Before they agreed to pay pounds 140,000 for the picturesque property, the Marsdens took advice from Prudential Property Services and paid pounds 750 for a full structural survey.
The 40-page report by the surveyor, Andrew Todd, concluded: 'My overall impression is that the property is basically satisfactory, although perhaps a little run down and becoming somewhat dated . . . Your proposed purchase price still represents good value for money.'
The surveyor, who now works for another firm, said that Hill House needed repair work and some additional bracing in the roof, but gave no warning about its fundamental soundness.
Three months after buying the house in December 1989 the Marsdens were given a more alarming verdict. Mr Marsden found that an oak corner post, one of the main structural timbers, was rotten, and called in another surveyor who was so worried he insisted a structural engineer should examine it immediately.
The new survey discovered that as well as the rotten corner post, two tie-beams holding the roof in place had been cut and a third removed altogether to allow extra bedrooms to be built. The sole plate, a beam around the bottom of the house, had been pushed off centre, and had started to crack under the stress.
In a subsequent report, Brian Morton, a structural engineer, wrote: 'It is my opinion that the problems of this structure should be obvious to an experienced surveyor. Mr Todd did not investigate in any way the condition of the members of the timber frame.'
He added: 'The whole structure bows outwards leaving the joists unsupported . . . Questions are thus raised about the overall long-term stability of the structure.'
Mr Marsden said: 'The house was in danger of collapse and we had to install engineers' props in the kitchen, the living-room, the bedrooms upstairs, and outside. They are still there 3 1/2 years later.'
The house needs repair work costing about pounds 60,000 but this was not covered by the building insurance because the faults were already there when the Marsdens bought it.
They decided to sue the Prudential for negligence and the case will be heard at Manchester Crown Court in March. The company denies liability but has placed the case in the hands of its professional indemnity insurers, Zurich Insurance, which called in a loss adjuster.
A Prudential spokesman said: 'Zurich have taken professional advice and they do not agree with Mr Marsden's statements. They will contest his views in court.' A statement by Zurich said it did not believe 'that there is a legal liability on the insurance policy arising from this claim based on the expert evidence we have obtained. We are unable to discuss the basis of this view in more detail as the claim is now subject to court proceedings'.
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Budget 2015: George Osborne to axe subsidies for higher income earners in social housing
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...
£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...