Many buyers of a new home in Almere are sitting with their hands in their hair. No more construction is taking place, because contractor Hette Bouw BV has been declared bankrupt. Moreover, hardly any more has been built. The contractor signed up for three projects in Almere Oosterwold and a few more projects in Almere-Poort, among others, a total of more than one hundred homes. However, construction progress was slow and defects were repeatedly found that were so serious that the municipality twice imposed a construction stop.
For residents, this means that they are often faced with double charges; the mortgage for their new house and the house where they have to stay because construction is not progressing. Some buyers are so discouraged that they place a caravan on their purchased plot of land
Elyas Abdi Rad lives in a mobile home on his plot and keeps up the courage in spite of everything:
One of the residents has been living with his family with young children in a small caravan since Christmas. “Virtually nothing happened for months, the contractor barely showed up. We could no longer bear the double burden and decided to put a caravan next to our house, which is not ready yet. That was really a stopgap solution. Of course it’s terrible to have to camp out like this.”
“You are hardly protected against a builder who does not live up to his agreements. Then you have to start legal proceedings and everything takes much longer”, says resident Luca, who bought a house in a smaller project from the contractor. “I’ve been working more than 475 days now and my house is still not ready. All this time, however, I have had to deal with double charges, costs for my lawyer and research costs.”
Also other residents say they don’t feel protected against a contractor who hasn’t done anything for months. “We could only wait when we knew it wasn’t right. It’s distressing to see that nothing is done to your house for months when you’re paying for it.”
“We entered the project with all good intentions. My sister’s in it, too. But it soon became apparent that the contractor was hardly doing anything. The question then is: who protects buyers against such rogue construction companies?”, says buyer Jeffrey.
That such a large project will not be completed is unique, says Vereniging Eigen Huis. It hardly ever happens in the Netherlands that houses are not completed. In fact: contractors have a general interest in the rapid completion of a house.
This is also the view of the Economic Institute for Construction. In general, 85 to 90 percent of the dwellings arrive on time, a spokesperson says.
The buyers in Almere have a Woningborg certificate. There are three guarantee institutions in the Netherlands: Woningborg, SWK and Bouwgarant, of which Woningborg is the largest. If the builder goes bankrupt during construction, Woningborg comes into action and looks at how the houses can still be finished. This can be done in two ways: either the contract terms are repaid or Woningborg looks for a contractor to finish the house. The latter happens most often.
“We have faced many setbacks, too many to mention”, the company’s project manager stated this summer. “We took the job in July 2017. We did lay the floors then, but there was no money to build. Because we were still working on other projects.”
The bankruptcy was declared about two weeks ago, says the trustee. “We are working very hard on how and when the houses can be finished.” It concerns eight new construction projects that have not been completed. These are mainly houses in Almere, but also houses in Lelystad, Ens and Bant, among others, have not been completed. In Almere about ten houses are finished, the remaining houses are unfinished. Sometimes there is only a concrete foundation.