How a £43,000 granny annexe in this Costessey garden turned into a nightmare
PUBLISHED: 09:23 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 11:36 06 February 2019
A family's bid to build a garden home for their elderly mother has turned to disaster after a company they paid £43,000 left the job incomplete and with a litany of problems.
Artist Sam Elmhirst now has an uninhabitable lodge in her garden on Myrtle Avenue, Costessey – and one surveyor estimates £37,500 of work is needed to fix mistakes made by builders.
When she tried to take the firm, Hudson Garden Rooms Limited, to court last year, it folded with almost £400,000 of debts – meaning she can no longer pursue the case.
But Hudson Garden Rooms has continued to trade online with the same website and name.
And the director and owner of Hudson Garden Rooms, Christopher Escrader, has set up a new firm called Hudson (Essex) Limited.
Hudson Garden Rooms has not responded to our request for comment.
Ms Elmhirst said: “The liquidation system is being abused. It is just a complete nightmare and I don’t know what to do now. The building is not liveable. It has no running water or heating.”
To make matters worse, her 76-year-old mum Carolyn suffered an aneurysm during the build and is now in a care home – and she needs the money wasted on the lodge to pay care home fees.
Sam’s sister Holly said: “Mum’s life savings have basically just gone. The saddest thing is Chris is still selling these granny annexes online.”
Hudson Garden Rooms’ website boasts it will give customers “everything from site inspection through to decoration and landscaping. Our service includes… all the support you need to ensure the building is complete and ready to move in.”
But the Elmhirsts said the reality was very different for them. The problems with their lodge include:
• A water pipe in the loft was not insulated, froze and burst, leading to damp staining on the ceiling and causing the floor to be warped
• Doors and a window need replacing to meet fire safety rules
• No ventilation system
• Foul water drainage is “highly unlikely to meet the testing procedure”, according to a surveyor
• Water pipes have to be removed and reinstalled as they do not comply with planning permission
• The floor is not fully insulated.
An inspection by South Norfolk Council’s building control also found a litany of problems meaning the home can not be lived in.
They found the ground water supply and foul water drainage were “not acceptable”.
The sewage and water pipes were installed halfway up the fence of Ms Elmhirst’s house rather than being buried.
Ms Elmhirst said when she tried to use the toilet and bath, water just backed up in the pipes as it was connected to the waste pipe of her washing machine in her house, and the water had to run uphill to reach her house.
Work on the lodge began in April 2016, and Ms Elmhirst’s mum paid 90pc of the £48,600 quote. She wanted to get out of her rented accommodation quickly, and they were told it could be done in three months.
But their problems began almost immediately.
Ms Elmhirst said: “When I asked about delays, and other build concerns, I was fobbed off with excuses at first until Chris got the hump and said if I keep phoning and complaining then he’d stall the build deliberately.”
Then in July Hudson Garden Rooms stopped work, the Elmhirsts said.
Ever since then she has discovered more problems, and spent thousands on legal fees and surveyors to prove the case against Hudson Garden Rooms.
“To rub salt in the wound they started sending us a letter demanding the last 5pc of the £48,000, which we have refused to pay,” she said.
“We can’t sell the lodge to pay for mum’s care because it’s not worth a penny without building regulations. I’ve watched my mum cry over all this; she is devastated, as we all are.”
• Follow the latest from our investigations unit on Facebook