'He needs stopping' - Anger at developer who took cash for new home that was unfinished
PUBLISHED: 11:30 02 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:49 03 May 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
It was meant to be her dream home - affordable, eco-friendly and overlooking the picturesque Suffolk countryside.
But after Isobel Dide Siemmond paid her life savings to developer Superior SIPs Limited her dreams quickly turned into a disaster.
The 31-year-old writer, composer and artist has spent months fighting for the company to deliver its promises. She claims to have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket for an unfinished building, which she has been told looks like a “bad garden shed”. Other customers have also complained about the company and its director, Rhodri Foote, while one of its suppliers claims to be owed a five-figure sum.
Together they are calling for better customer protection to stop companies taking money for work they fail to complete.
“I'd always dreamt of having my own home,” Miss Siemmond said. “We'd saved and had so much help from our family that I was incredibly excited to think it was finally going to happen. But it's been a total disaster.”
Superior SIPs said most clients were happy with its products and the site work, which was subcontracted to partners. It disputes the money owed and said it had done more than £28,000 worth of work at the property. But a surveyor's report, commissioned by Miss Siemmond, found it had failed to deliver what was paid for.
Miss Siemmond contacted the company last September while exploring ways to get on the housing ladder. Her earnings were not enough to afford a home in east Suffolk.
But with help from family, including an offer of land, Miss Siemmond saw an opportunity to build her own home using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) – a quick and affordable construction method.
She awarded Superior SIPs the job after it offered to complete the build in a month. Miss Siemmond paid almost £28,000 of the £36,000 costs and was told work would start in October. But as weeks passed without progress she became concerned. She claimed Mr Foote became hard to contact, only replying with what she claimed to be excuses. Then on New Year's Eve she found a blog by a concerned Superior SIPs customer, whose claims of delays and being left out of pocket sounded eerily familiar.
“This terrible sinking feeling came over me,” she said. “It seemed like the kind of horror story you only see in films, but it was happening to us.”
Despite her concerns, Miss Siemmond said Mr Foote kept “stringing her along with a glimmer of hope” that the work would be completed.
And in February, a team of builders did turn up. However, her joy was short lived. Professionals soon alerted her to dozens of errors with the build. The builders have since left, with the home far from finished. She said no one had visited the site since March.
Building control found problems with the roof, floor and more.
An RICS qualified chartered surveyor's review found Superior SIPs “failed to deliver and install what was specified and paid for”.
The surveyor found Miss Siemmond was owed a £17,000 refund. Quotes to complete the work have exceeded £50,000. She fears her mother may have to sell her home to resolve the financial issues.
“Almost everything needs to be redone or was not done properly in the first place,” she said. “Professionals who have seen the build were shocked. One even said a badly made shed is better.”
Miss Siemmond has sought help from authorities, but fears little can be done.
Another aggrieved customer, Anna Steinbauer from near Braintree, complained to Action Fraud after spending £11,000 on a conservatory. Ms Steinbauer also said Mr Foote became hard to contact once the money had been paid. “It got to the point where I left a message saying I think this is a scam,” she said. “Then he texted back, but it became impossible to have a direct conversation with him. All he did was tell us sob stories about why the work wasn't being done.”
Ms Steinbauer said she was not happy with the quality of build and the delays. But inspectors from building control did visit and approved the work.
Another customer, Martin Short paid £11,500 for a roof, but said he was faced with “delays, obfuscation and excuses”.
“We didn't realise there was a problem to begin with with but after a while you start to think something's not right,” he added. “Although he did complete the build, it was so badly done we had to spend £2,000 on labour to get it put right.”
In response, Superior SIPs said the case was from two years ago and claimed it was resolved by Mr Short not paying all the money.
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Supplier owed five-figure sum
A supplier stopped dealing with Superior SIPs after being inundated with complaints from customers.
Craig Carmichael, who owns STP Systems and Kepi International, claimed 23 people contacted him about Superior SIPs and its director Rhodri Foote.
Mr Carmichael said he had continued supplying Superior SIPs in the hope of recouping some of the five-figure sum he was owed by the company. But he decided to stop dealing with the company due to the complaints.
“My business is built on reputation,” he said, “So when I get involved with someone who's creating these problems, it's not for me. I'm trying to create a market for SIPs and he's not helping - he needs stopping.”
Mr Carmichael said he had worked to resolve some of the problems faced by Superior SIPs' former customers.
Superior SIPs said it was common for money to be paid over time in supply chains and claimed to have a good relationship with Mr Carmichael.
Superior SIPs has defended its services and rejected some of the claims made about its failures.
A company spokesman said: “Superior SIP Panels is a leading supplier of Magnesium Oxide Board SIP, which provides a fast and affordable approach to assembling building projects.
“We subcontract all site works, including installation of our panels, and the vast majority of our clients are happy with both our products and the work carried out by our independent partners.”
The company said negotiations were ongoing with Miss Siemmmond and claimed to have spent more than £28,000 on her property.
It said Ms Steinbauer's property had been signed off by building control.
Previous company dissolved
Before setting up Superior SIPs Rhodri Foote was a co-director for Overseas Property Ltd, which was owned by his father.
The company invested in properties in holiday destinations, raising cash by selling shares to investors for a minimum of £10,000.
It also sold apartments in Cyprus. But when the buyers found the properties had not been built because of a dispute with the Cypriot construction firm, they began legal proceedings. According to an administrator's report, the company did not own any properties as they were in the name of the director and his sons, including Rhodri.
The High Court ordered that the company be wound up on January 30, 2008, following a petition from six creditors. It was dissolved on August 24, 2018.
Superior SIPs said issues with Overseas Property Ltd were historical and did not relate to the current business.