A Swansea man who has waited five years for an insurance company to fix his house has had to move out while he waits for it to be demolished and rebuilt.
But 62-year-old Eddie Collins who lives on Graiglwyd Road in Cockett is doubtful the work will happen anytime soon, despite the initial deadline for its completion being March 2017.
Mr Collins said his insurance company, Saga, had been made aware of an issue at his home in April 2016, which turned out to be subsidence caused by his drain rotting away his semi-detached home’s foundation.
His elderly next door neighbours, who live in the home attached to Mr Collins’, described the situation as “upsetting and stressful” as one of them battles cancer.
Since we spoke to Mr Collins and his neighbours, Saga has apologised for the distress caused and will be commencing building work in the next few weeks as a “priority”.
Mr Collins is currently living in temporary accommodation in Mount Pleasant while he continues to wait for work to begin on his house.
“I have been here since June 3 last year and in that time they have not physically touched the house. Insurance is paying £750 a month for me to be here and there’s still no sign of them doing anything,” he said.
“I’ve had enough. I’m at a loss to understand how the insurance people don’t seem to give a monkey’s about what’s going on. They’re putting out all this money and are not doing anything.
“They sent me a check for £1000 with an apology because of the delay with this work within the last 12 months – and here we are today: still nowhere.”
Mr Collins said his problems started shortly after he first notified the insurance company about issues with his home.
“They sent some boys to do some work on my house and as they started hacking off my wall, I had to ask them to leave because I could tell they weren’t doing a very good job,” he said.
“Insurance sent another group of workers and they were good. They realised the issue was much worse than we initially thought then they reported it back. Subsequently they took the decision to demolish the entire house and rebuild it.”
Initially, Mr Collins thought he would be able to go back to his home, which he inherited from his parents, in September or October 2020.
But that has since been pushed back to an unknown future date.
He said: “The last meeting I had was in November and they told me the start date was January this year and recommended I would be back in September or October -but that obviously hasn’t happened. It’s just one delay after the other.”
According to Mr Collins, there is one crucial piece of documentation that has not yet been issued by Saga and is preventing workers from starting work at his house.
Because Mr Collins’ home is semi-detached, both home owners must be issued with and agree to terms in a Party Wall Act document.
You can now get all of the need-to-know news sent straight to your inbox by signing up for our free WalesOnline newsletter.
It takes just seconds to subscribe – simply click here, enter your email address and follow the instructions.
The act provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes relating to jointly owned walls and must be completed for Mr Collins’ demolition work to take place.
“When they told me the entire house was going to come down, the Party Wall Act came into effect, because it concerns my next door neighbour.,” explained Mr Collins.
“I was notified about the act in December 2019 and completed my part shorty after. It’s just like a black hole from where I’m standing. There seems to be nobody in charge of it. They still have not served my next door neighbour with a Party Wall Act, which means they cannot start the work.”
Mr Collins said he is losing more hope as each day passes by and it frustrated that the whole thing is out of his control. At this stage, he has no idea when he will be able to move back home.
He added: “The first boys I had to chuck off site so it doesn’t fill me with confidence of what’s coming, but I can’t do anything because it’s insurance.”
Colin Lewis, 84, lives in the semi-detached house next door with his wife, 89-year-old Wendy Lewis.
Mr Lewis said the couple are not at all opposed to the building work and view it as “essential”, but that the constant delays are adding stress on them especially as Mrs Lewis suffers with poor health.
“I’m not against the work being done because it is essential work, but the insurance company has not sent me the Party Wall Act which would allow the work to go ahead.,” said Mr Lewis.
“However, I am concerned about the major inconvenience it causes me. One of the issues is of the greatest concern to me is my wife. She has cancer and has already been in hospital twice for operations.
“She is expected to go into hospital for another operation at the end of this month. When they start doing work on the property, there’s going to be an element of noise – you can’t get away from that.
“But it means she might be in bed recovering when that’s going on which is a little bit disconcerting from her point of view as well is upsetting.”
What’s more is that Mr and Mrs Lewis are having to live with the unpleasant side-effects of living so close to a deteriorating property.
He said: “I had to call my gas company once because I could smell very strong gas , but it turned out to be the stench of a dead and decaying rat. This issue started around 12 months ago and we never previously had any issues like this.
“Like anywhere, there are rats in the sewerage but because there are gaps in the property, we’ve had it a few times where a rat has managed to get into the property. Then they have died because rat poison had to be put down.
“But ultimately, my biggest concern for the future is that the side of the house falling in. It’s going to be deteriorating over time and that wall might well collapse.”
Find out about coronavirus cases in your area:
A Saga spokesperson said: “This is an extremely unusual insurance claim, one which involved many additional parties including the local council and utilities – with its complexity only heightened since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“However, we are disappointed that the service Mr Collins has experienced was not to the high standard ordinarily delivered, and that he has faced significant delays to the work required on his property.
“We understand that this has had implications for his neighbours too, who have also experienced considerable distress as a consequence. We want to take this opportunity to apologise for the inconvenience and frustration caused and will be progressing the necessary building work as a priority in the coming weeks.”
Since speaking to WalesOnline, Saga has today (March, 4 2021) contacted Mr Collins to provide him with a start date for the work to begin on March, 15 2021.
After speaking to Mr Lewis, demolition work will be adapted to cause as little nuisance as possible.
Saga’s surveyor is meeting the neighbours next week to run through the Party Wall notice. They will also be offered the assistance of a surveyor funded by Saga as well as temporary accommodation if the neighbour wishes to use it.