personal finance

My six-year battle to get a housing association to restore my garden


I bought a share of a newly built shared-ownership property six years ago. It has a small hedged garden demised to it. This was left in a sorry condition by the builders and the housing association/developer, Notting Hill Home Ownership (NHHO), eventually agreed to cover reasonable costs for it to be restored if I obtained quotes. Before work could start, the balconies of the block were found to have serious defects. Remedial work went on for the next few years, and builders occupied that space.

Once they left, I agreed plans with NHHO. I was then told the same builders were returning to replace flammable cladding and my garden was covered by scaffolding for another year. NHHO again promised it would be made good. When these builders left, NHHO said it needed to dig up the hedge to repair water pipes. The hedge screened my flat and now people can see into every room.

The cladding work damaged the drainpipes, so again builders needed access to my garden to repair them. Since then NHHO has reneged on its promise to pay for the garden restoration and failed to respond to my reminders. It has also failed to reimburse me for remedial works inside the flat.

I am an NHS worker and it would be really nice to have been able to come home to some outside space to relax in, and, even better, to relax in my front room without people peering in. I’ve tried emailing the chief executive, and offered formal mediation, but no response. What can I do?PM, London

You seem to have been extraordinarily unlucky. NHHO does not deny you have endured years of disruption, and blames new building requirements in the wake of the Grenfell Tower inferno. It also tells me that it agreed to reimburse you for replacing damaged plants on receipt of an invoice.

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You insist the agreement was it would fund it according to the quotes you obtained, and you’re unwilling to shell out when you say you haven’t been reimbursed for the expensive work required inside the flat. A court order has required NHHO to fund other, larger remedial works inside your home, but I’ve been unable to persuade it to stump up for the rest.

You’re now planning to take it to the small claims court, which means more months of waiting.

And finally, positively great service, John Lewis

John Lewis’s customer service has been taking a bit of a kicking of late, so here’s a positive story. Last Sunday my 15-month-old Epson printer stopped working. I did all I could to get it going but failed. I called JL tech support at about 1.30pm (on a Sunday) and spoke with the very helpful Joseph who walked me through further steps I should take, to no avail.

He was then able to authorise a replacement to be picked up at my local Waitrose the next day after 3pm. At about 1pm I got a text to say it was ready for collection. Twenty four hours in all, some service!

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