A LOCAL couple who have battled with their builder over shoddy workmanship on two wooden cabins they bought five years ago were awarded R1-million in damages by the Grahamstown High Court on January 31.
Brendan and Jacqueline French originally purchased three properties at Mellow-Wood Cabins in 2006, on the corner of Robertson and Dickinson Roads. One of these was later sold and the couple retained two.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: A former owner of properties at Mellow-Wood Cabins, Jacqueline French, showed TotT the development that led to several years of litigation with their builder Picture: ROB KNOWLES
The French’s signed an offer to purchase through Sothebys, subject to bond approval as well as National Home Builder’s Registration Council (NHBRC) certification.
The bond was approved and the properties registered to the French’s, but later they discovered no NHBRC certificates were ever issued on the property. They also claimed no building plans were ever approved by the municipal building inspector.
Court papers revealed the builder/developer, Murray Booysens, sold the cabins to the French’s on the agreement improvements would be made to the properties which were never carried out.
The papers further revealed foundations, doors and windows, cladding and roofing defects, potentially leading to catastrophic failure in the future if these issues were not dealt with. Several reports were submitted as evidence, highlighting these problems and their potential impact.
But municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said plans were approved for the cabins.
“No inspection was called for,” said Mbolekwa. “The building inspector’s comments for rates clearance was not in order due to the outstanding structural engineer’s certificate, electrical certificate and plumbing certificate.”
He said no order had been granted to demolish or rebuild the walls.
In his judgment, Justice Smith awarded R900 000 to the French’s plus interest calculated from April 2008 and up to the date of payment.
The French’s celebrated their victory at Kenny’s Pub in Port Alfred last Tuesday evening. The relief on their faces spoke volumes of their struggle to simply survive during the last three years.
“It’s just so good, after all this time, to have been awarded a judgment in our favour,” said Brendan. “It has been a long time coming.”
The court case began in 2010, after several years in which the French’s collected the necessary evidence to fight litigation by the builder. They said they suffered substantial losses which left them virtually destitute.
“When everything is finally resolved, we can begin to make plans for our future,” said Brendan.
Booysens declined to comment.