Building delay may cost St Albans teacher her own home

PUBLISHED: 12:13 21 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:47 06 May 2010

A YEAR-LONG delay in building a flat for which she had paid a £10,000 deposit may have ruined a schoolteacher s dream of owning her own home. Despite having paid the deposit in October 2008, the primary school teacher has been told that her one-bedroom fl

A YEAR-LONG delay in building a flat for which she had paid a £10,000 deposit may have ruined a schoolteacher's dream of owning her own home.

Despite having paid the deposit in October 2008, the primary school teacher has been told that her one-bedroom flat on the former Oaklands College site in Hatfield Road, St Albans, won't now be ready until next summer.

She has the added problem that a key worker loan she had allocated to help pay for the flat is due to run out in March 2010.

Christina Smith, 47, of Granville Road, St Albans, said: "This is probably my last chance to become a homeowner but it looks as though my chances may now be scuppered through no fault of my own."

Miss Smith is currently trying to get Lea Valley Homes, which manages the key worker loans on behalf of the Government, to grant her an extension but if that fails she will be unable to afford her flat.

She said the developers Nicholas King Homes originally told her the flat would be ready by June this year. But just after she paid the deposit in October 2008 the firm had to mothball the project because of the collapse of the Icelandic banks.

Building recommenced in June 2009 and Ms Smith was told she could be in by Christmas.

But last month she was told water damage to her block of flats meant the flat would not now be ready until next June at the earliest.

When she explained her predicament to the firm and asked if they could help, she was told there were no similar flats available but that she could have her deposit back if they managed to sell her flat for her.

A spokesperson for Nicholas King Homes said they had no contractual obligation to meet a set completion date on Miss Smith's flat.

She added: "The circumstances here were beyond our control. First, the crash of the Icelandic bank meant we had to stop building. While the buildings were boarded-up, one block of flats was water-damaged which has meant there have been further delays. We have offered to give Miss Smith her money back if we can sell her flat."

St Albans MP Anne Main has written to the Housing Minister to try and get tighter controls exerted over developers in such cases.

She said: "The developers may not be contractually obliged to return Miss Smith's deposit or pay her interest at least but this does seem to be a dishonourable way of doing business. Penalising a key worker who is financially disadvantaged by tying up her money and forcing her to pay out extra in rent does not seem fair to me.


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