A Leicester woman says a botched pipe repair underneath her home has left the property sinking into the ground – but Severn Trent say they’re not to blame.
Reema Sodha’s Belgrave neighbourhood had been experiencing drainage problems as far back as 2018, and in 2019 she allowed Severn Trent contractors to carry out a repair under her house to fix the issues she and her neighbours had been experiencing.
But Ms Sodha claims the workers only carried out a temporary patching job which had to be repaired fully later.
READ MORE: All the latest property news here
And since that first repair work, the 45-year-old says cracks have been worsening in her walls, affecting her whole property – with her believing the damaged pipe and repeated works to it have caused severe subsidence to her home.
Severn Trent has denied any liability, saying all their work “has been done to the best possible standard”.
A loss assessor told Ms Sodha that her and her teenage daughter’s house was “sinking vertically and horizontally”, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to their home.
For two years, she was in dispute with Severn Trent and her insurance company, Covea, and she says the damage to her home will cost around £40,000 to repair – money she does not have.
The ordeal led to Ms Sodha being signed off work due to stress, and she has since been prescribed medication for mental health issues. She now says she does not know “where else to turn to” with the dispute at an impasse.
The homeowner first noticed small cracks forming in her property – particularly in the kitchen, the closest room to the problematic underground pipe – before any repairs were done.
“After the initial works, all the cracks just got bigger and bigger to the point where the house has become freezing, you can actually feel the draft through the house,” she said.
“There were cracks forming around the windows and the kitchen worktops were coming away from the walls. I would even hear noises like the house was creaking or moving.”
Ms Sodha’s kitchen floor has even started to tilt and some doors around her house no longer close due to the shifting of her property.
And the drainage issues which had been solved for her neighbours had not even been remedied in her home.
She added: “I can’t afford to keep the heating on but it’s absolutely freezing at home.”
After making a complaint to Severn Trent, Ms Sodha said the company has denied any liability for the damage.
After the work was complete, Severn Trent agreed on a sum of money to offer the homeowner so she could reinstate her garden which had been affected by the works.
The money was credited to Ms Sodha’s account but she says she refuses to use it until she is properly compensated for the damage to her home.
A spokesperson for Severn Trent said: “We understand how distressing the past two years have been for Ms Sodha, which is why we’ve remained in close contact with her and done everything within our power to help.
“Since we first went out to repair a damaged sewer pipe near to her property in 2019, we’ve been back out on a number of occasions to make sure the customer has been happy with everything we’ve done and that our network is working as it should be. As a result, we’re happy that the work we’ve carried out has been done to the best possible standard.
“Every effort has also been made to carry out significant improvements to her garden, which was affected by the damaged pipe. The customer has been given an agreed sum to carry out the work herself, after declining our offer to carry out the work directly. As a gesture of goodwill, we’ve also credited her account for the inconvenience she’s experienced throughout this time.”
While navigating her way through the complaints process with Severn Trent, Ms Sodha also sought help from her insurance company hoping to reinstate her house, which continued to fall into disrepair.
Concerned about the cost of repairs, the mum hoped her insurers, Covea, would undertake a thorough assessment of the damage but initially, she said she was offered a sum of money before anyone visited the property.
The insurance company then appointed a building validation company to visit her property and eventually offered her £12,002.78 – 10 per cent of which was a “good-will gesture”.
This sum was intended to cover multiple costs including but not limited to repairs to the superstructure of her home, redecoration, resetting of brickwork externally, various reinforcement works, internal plaster repairs, the removal and replacement of a kitchen wall and floor tiles and refitting radiators.
Unconvinced that she was being properly supported, Ms Sodha decided to pay for a loss assessor herself who calculated that the schedule of repairs her home needed, would cost £39,936.
A spokesperson for Covea said: “In cases such as this where multiple trades and organisations are involved it’s common for a cash settlement to be made to provide the policyholder with greater flexibility in managing the repair.”
Ms Sodha told LeicestershireLive: “I felt like they were taking advantage of me because I’m a single mum and I really felt like they’ve let me down.
“I don’t know how I’ve managed to continue like this – I’m absolutely exhausted, I feel like giving up.
“I just want the damage to my house to be fixed. It doesn’t warm up at all, my daughter doesn’t want to live here anymore.
“I want to move but I can’t and this has completely devalued my property.”
A spokesperson for the insurance firm added: “Ms Sodha has made two complaints, the first about delays to repair works which upon investigation were found to be beyond Covéa’s control – the policyholder then complained to the independent Financial Ombudsman who agreed that the delays had not been caused by Covea.
“The second complaint related to the difference in costs in the schedule of works provided by the loss assessor appointed by the policyholder and that of the qualified surveyor (BVS) appointed by Covea.
“We have reviewed the schedule of works put forward by the policy holder’s loss assessor and find it is over scoped and overpriced for the level of repairs required. We have had no further contact with the assessor the policyholder appointed since the policyholder took the decision to remove them from the case last year.
“However, while the claim is closed from our perspective, we are willing to appoint another independent surveyor to provide all parties with an additional quote for reinstatement works to ensure the policyholder receives fair compensation.”
Keep up with the latest news with our email alerts directly to your inbox. Sign up here.