Family Face Financial Ruin

Family Face Financial Ruin Due To Basement Collapse

A family has been left with bills of more than £1million after the contractor, they had engaged to extend their home, caused the property to collapse.

Jacquie Hale and her partner Ed Goldswain saw their home in Finchley, North London turn to dust when it came crashing down – just as they were expecting their first child.

A building firm had been trying to extend the £345,000 two-bedroom ground floor flat, by converting the basement of the Edwardian property into a further two bedrooms and a bathroom, when the walls began to crack.

It transpired that the contractor was an insolvent plumbing company, without the necessary experience and qualifications for the job, which resulted in substandard work with disastrous consequences.

Where did it go wrong is an obvious question to ask.

without doing some due diligence of their own. For instance: the company’s insurances and whether they covered the proposed work, any warranties provided by the contractor, did it belong to a recognised trade body and were any references provided or checked?

They may seem obvious in hindsight but it is vital to find out as much as possible about a contractor before letting them loose on your home.

Sadly in this case the company contracted to carry out the work were not experts in basement construction or members of the Association of Specialist Underpinning Contractors (ASUC) a national association designed to protect the interests of the consumer and contractor alike and uphold industry best practice.

ASUC audits its contractors members on their financial stability, health and safety record, adequacy of insurances and technical competence – and does so on a rolling basis every two years.

The association works with the major London Estates on an exclusive ASUC only tender list and are the preferred source of contractor selection by most London Boroughs. In 2013 ASUC published its comprehensive Guidelines on Basement Construction Guidelines (copies of which are freely downloadable from its website –

It appears that the couple chose a contractor

ASUC also collaborates with like-minded organisations, such as the Basement Waterproofing Association, who provide industry care for consumers and contractors and uphold standards of practice for contractors involved in the waterproofing of basements.

Since the disaster the couple has spent the three last three years battling with the contractor, the council and their insurance company over who should pay for the damage. It seems the council has demanded they pay the £300,000 it cost to demolish the property and clear up the wreckage – bringing the total costs to more than £1million, including some £500,000 in legal bills, the £318,000 demolition bill, £100,000 in expenses and a monthly mortgage payment on a property they will never live in again.

This very sad and disastrous story is an extreme case; however, it could easily have been avoided if the couple had selected a contractor who was a member of a reputable specialist association such as the aawu
In most cases one’s home is the single biggest investment in a lifetime so it is vitally important that you protect that asset when undertaking building or structural work and ensure adequate protection is in place. It’s also worth remembering there are generally no shortcuts in life – if something seems too cheap it’s generally of inferior quality and as the age old saying goes ‘you often get what you pay for.’