Several homeowners at the exclusive Windsor Estates are disappointed with the quality of the homes and service being provided by the developer, Navigant Builders Inc, which says it has been trying to rectify reported defects and that delays are due to issues beyond its control.
Homeowners who have taken possession of their homes complained to Stabroek News about shoddy workmanship and inferior customer service, while those still to take possession bemoaned the delays in making their homes available.
One homeowner, who is now in a legal battle with the company, said that in 2013 he signed a contract with the Windsor Estates developers. In the original contract, he was promised that his home would be ready for occupation in nine months. Today, more than two years later, he has been unable to take possession. In fact, after numerous appeals and five delays, his contract with the developer was terminated on June 24th, 2015, after he had committed to 80% of the costs. He believes this termination was as a result of him publicly airing his grievances.
“I was told that I’m in breach of contract for contacting the media and posting my concerns on social media, and that my actions could constitute defamation but I’m not saying anything that isn’t true. They were sold this land by the Government of Guyana in 2013 and they have made promises to investors yet today they have barely delivered to more than 20 homeowners,” he said.
He has since filed a suit against President and CEO of Navigant Builders Inc. Danny Sawh for breach of contract based on their failure to reach five agreed upon deadlines and produce the quality work promised.
Other homeowners who have taken possession of their properties told Stabroek News that they don’t believe the work that has been done is “up to scratch.” “For the price we paid, I don’t expect to find peeling paint and malfunctioning bathtubs. They are very flippant about the complaints they receive. All they keep doing is promising. First they promised to raise the fence two more block heights but now they are saying that the foundation can’t take two more block heights. This is not the security we paid for,” one resident complained.
‘Beyond our control’
Sawh, a US-based Guyanese entrepreneur, acknowledges that there have been delays. He explained to Stabroek News that his company has only been able to complete 28 units, not due to any intentional action on their part as any such action would hurt the company both financially and at the level of the customer relations.
“We are cognisant that across the board we have seen delays for most of our homes. Numerous challenges beyond our control have placed us in this unfortunate position. In 2013, there was hardly any dry weather, rains lasted for more than two-thirds of the year, which took a toll on us meeting deadlines. Our constraints also came during the period that Guyana experienced a shortage in concrete due to a lack of adequate and timely supply of stone. During that period, we had to wait in line behind well-established businesses and government projects for concrete deliveries,” he noted.
He also acknowledged that there have been identified quality issues but he strongly denies that he and his team are flippant about the complaints they receive. Instead, he said that they “take quality seriously and have put measures in place to rectify most if not all the reported quality issues. In fact, an independent quality consultant has recently been employed to report directly to the CEO all quality issues and ensure that they are resolved before a customer takes possession.”
Sawh also noted that once every week a list of customer complaints is reviewed by his team and he personally makes sure that these are addressed.
Stabroek New was invited to visit Windsor Estates and interact with some of the residents. During the visit it was noted that a large section of the development is still to be constructed. While infrastructure, such as roads and public lighting, has been completed in a small section and several homes have been completed, Sawh conceded that there is still a lot to be done before the community can live up to its advertised standard. He added that while it was initially estimated that the project would be completed in two and a half years, it is more likely going to take four and a half years.
This delay is expected to cost the developer an additional $300M. While the developer assures that it is willing to carry the extra cost without passing it on to the customer, not all customers are satisfied as they will in all probability be bearing personal costs that the developer will not cover.
‘Cater for their own security’
On the question of security, Sawh told Stabroek News that he has explained to residents that once completed the estate would have a multi-layered state-of-the-art system that consists of a sophisticated infrared security system mounted on top of the perimeter fence. “This system and other public facilities will be maintained through a maintenance fee paid by residents. Until that time, residents are expected to cater for their own security,” he noted.
However, the homeowner who said his contract was terminated said that he and other homeowners were promised a secure community yet there have been three break-ins at Windsor Estates in recent weeks, with one senior army official having been robbed of a weapon as a result of the last break in.
While the homeowner said he believed his outspokenness was responsible for the termination of the contract, Sawh says that the homeowner was in breach of a recent agreement both parties were signatory to.
He said that the homeowner failed to respond promptly to communications requesting information on paint colours and showed up 10 days late for a scheduled walk through of the property. “He showed up with his engineer and created a list of defects that included items that were clearly not a part of his contract, such as his home missing a fire sprinkler system.
He also displayed erratic behaviour, such as yelling at our staff and blocking our entrance with his car and making public disparaging remarks about Windsor Estates on social media,” he said.
The homeowner disputes Sawh’s version of events.
According to Sawh, Navigant Builders is a subsidiary of Stonewall Contracting Corporation in College Point, New York. Stonewall has been in business since 1990 and has completed numerous high profile, award-winning public and private projects, ranging from US $100,000 to US $40,000,000 in value. They include new schools, courthouses, underground train stations, hospitals, theatres, playgrounds, police facilities, public housing, a multimillion dollar high end restaurant in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City and a US$3.5 million dollar high end residential home in Westchester, New York.
The homeowner is not impressed given the developer’s failure to deliver. “He is two years late in delivering and after taking 80% of my money he is denying me access to my property, after trying to deliver to me what a qualified engineer classed as shoddy work.
That’s not good enough for someone who promised high standards never seen in Guyana. What do I tell my 10-year-old daughter who has chosen the paint for her bedroom? How do I abandon my first home?” he asked.