Wed | Oct 28, 2020

New year, new disappointment - Lawsuit looms as homebuyers fume over another missed deadline

Published:Tuesday | January 7, 2020 | 12:39 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter

The developers of The Orchards, a sprawling housing project in Old Harbour, St Catherine, could face legal action from at least one angry purchaser after they failed to keep a public commitment to deliver the remaining 200-plus units being constructed in Phase One last month.

Other purchasers are contemplating whether to seek the intervention of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who has made the delivery of housing solutions a priority of his administration.

The Orchards was first announced in 2016 by developers Rivi Gardner & Associates as a residential complex that would include a total of 780 two-bedroom bungalows, to be constructed over three phases, on approximately 140 acres of decommissioned sugar lands.

Construction began the following year, but the project has since been plagued by delays, with some purchasers complaining that several dates have come and passed when they were told they would be able to move into their units.

Right to complain

Last month, Hugh Scott, whose company, Asco Project Consultants, manages the development, acknowledged that “the purchasers have a right to complain because of numerous delays with Phase One”.

However, Scott told The Gleaner at the time that 30 purchasers had already moved into their homes and said that he expected the remaining 200-plus units in Phase One to be delivered by the end of December.

Danielle Stewart*, who said she has been waiting since April 2017 for her two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit with a price tag of $10.75 million, was livid over the latest missed deadline and made it clear she was ready to take action.

“I have contacted the Real Estate Board and I am looking at the possibility of a lawsuit,” said Stewart, who told The Gleaner she resigned her job overseas and returned to her homeland after she secured a mortgage to purchase the unit.

Stewart said that she has already retained an attorney and received information from the Real Estate Board about “what I need to do”.

“But I’m still waiting on the advice of my lawyer before I proceed,” she said.

Lenmore Bell, one of the first-time home purchasers waiting to move into his unit, indicated that there was consensus among his peers for letters to be dispatched to Holness and other government officials seeking their intervention.

“Because we not getting any response from them,” he said of the project developers.

Bell said his peers are not inclined to pursue legal action because “we nuh have the money”. He also believes that the likelihood of succeeding was slim.

“There is no delivery date in the contract itself. The contract only speaks to a reasonable time,” he said, explaining the reluctance to pursue legal action against the developers.

Scott declined to comment for this story.

Frustrating wait

Stewart told The Gleaner that her near three-year wait has been.

“I am living out of suitcases and boxes. I have my furniture because I shipped everything down [to Jamaica]. I am now in a position where I don’t even know if the things are still good, if dem dry-rot, if dem still usable … . I don’t know because they have been stored for years now,” she said.

Scott admitted, during last month’s interview, that his company “made a mistake” when it hired the three contractors who were engaged for different periods to work on the project.

“The simple fact is there were some contractors hired on the project that should not be anywhere near building houses. Where they were given seven months to complete the work, after 16 months, they were not even 20 per cent completed,” the project manager claimed.

“I would never even try to find an excuse or say the people don’t have a right to be angry. They do have a right to be angry,” he conceded.

* Name Changed