Building nightmare for nonagenarian

When Margaret Bodley, 90, hired Plumstead contractor Emuraan Hendricks of Berkeley Homes to enclose a balcony, build a bedroom en-suite on an open patio and install a glass door at her Forest Glade home in Tokai, she was expecting an excellent job as he came highly recommended by one of her neighbours, who is now having her own battle with him.

Hendricks’s website which is www.berkeleyhomes.co.za lists several projects including Sanderling Quays, Muizenberg (38 houses); Water’s Edge, Muizenberg (8); Waste-Mart, Athlone Industria; X-Factor Medical Suites, Claremont; several mansions in Camps Bay, one of which is shown, and apartments at the Waterfront for Weirzyca and Le Roux. It doesn’t say if he built them or managed the projects.

So it should have been a doddle for Mr Hendricks, especially with architect’s plans.

However, for Ms Bodley, it didn’t go according to plan.

The dispute centres on some illegal work and the cost of materials. “The work Hendricks did is more than shoddy, some of it is illegal,” said Victoria, Ms Bodley’s daughter.

“The builder was supposed to attach beams for the roof on to the second layer of bricks, not to the neighbour’s adjoining wall; the ceiling board he used was not the specification demanded by the architects or listed in the site audit that we requested after he claimed he did work worth R123 920.50. The audit shows that the material and labour used (amounted to) R23 317.80. The ceiling board has been damaged by rain because the roof was not installed properly,” said Victoria, who alleged Mr Hendricks used the wrong ceiling specification to cover the fact that he put the beams into the neighbour’s wall.

“My mother made endless calls asking Hendricks when he was returning to the site: he didn’t keep appointments; either he was in Johannesburg or busy with a project in Woodstock; he didn’t answer his phone or WhatsApps. Eventually I sent him a WhatsApp that if he wasn’t at the house by 2pm on March 22 as arranged, I would lay a fraud charge at the police station, on my way home. He arrived at 1.22pm and asked my mother, ‘Have you got a ruler or a cane for me, Ma?’ I was upstairs and overheard the conversation,” Victoria said.

“Hendricks first blamed the staff and that he was very busy with big jobs he had. My mother told him he had breached the contract by not completing the work. And seven months down the line she wanted her money back so she could get someone else to do it. He emailed the bill of materials to her. But I answered for my mother and told him she disputed his bill,” said Victoria.

Ms Bodley had already paid Hendricks R131 250 out of the R175 000 he quoted for the job.

“Hendricks worked it out so that he would not have to refund her very much,” said Victoria.

Mr Hendricks called me on Wednesday May 17 pretending ignorance even though I spelled it out in my email. He said either he or his lawyer would respond.

Mr Hendricks did and marked his replies in red with a headline “Without Prejudice”.

“My scaffolding is in the client’s garage which has not been charged for yet and my lawyer is addressing this.”

Referring to the neighbour, Mr Hendricks said she had not paid for extras she requested and they withdrew from the site.

“At the beginning of the year we had several projects we had to start. I did not blame my staff and one of them told (Ms Bodley) it was builders’ holidays and we will return as the window manufacturer had already closed. Progress draws had been taken and we waited for another draw for the windows.

“Victoria Bodley indicated that she understood. When asked again (about the draw) she replied her mother is responsible for this. The bill dispute can be solved by arbitration as (my) contract states. Actual materials is not R23 317. I would like to see the audit and then comment. The client was made aware of this (ceiling and beams in to the neighbour’s adjoining wall) and agreed as this is a common wall, nothing illegal.”

Not so. City building inspector Leon Daniels came to check on the building at Forest Glade and said the roof beams were illegal.

“My mother gave the inspector’s card to Mr Hendricks and said he should call him,” Victoria said.

The chairman of the Board of Forest Glade, Don Ball, said when Ms Bodley wanted to enclose her balcony and found that the neighbour’s hot water pipes were within their property they asked a building inspector to attend a meeting to explain the required building regulations.

“The neighbour had to move all reticulation to their own erf. The inspector noted Hendricks had not built an additional ‘fire wall’ in terms of the building regulations. Hendricks had attached the roof supporting beams to the neighbour’s wall, which the inspector said was illegal. Hendricks was instructed to build the additional wall, remove the beams from the neighbour’s wall and support the roof structure entirely on Ms Bodley’s internal wall.” This was confirmed by Mr Daniels.

I sent Mr Hendricks a copy of the site report on May 19, May 23 and May 24, asking him to confirm that Ms Bodley has his scaffolding; to comment on the report; if he wanted to add to his original response; why his tax invoice did not have a SARS number or his business address. However, he ignored the emails.

When I phoned him on May 29, he said it was Ramadaan but he would respond. When I said I had sent it to him on May 19 before Ramadaan, he reiterated he would respond. I sent him a reminder on June 6 and on June 27. Up to now, he has ignored them.

Jeandre Steyn from the Building Industry Bargaining Council (BIBC) in Bellville, said neither Berkeley Homes nor Emuraan Hendricks were on their list of compliant contractors.

The BIBC’s collective agreement covers standard terms and conditions of employment: rates of pay, benefits, holidays, resolving labour disputes in the BIBC rather than referring them to the CCMA and to administer social benefit funds for employees: retirement, medical aid, sick pay and holiday pay. Berkeley Homes trading as Market Demand 238 (Pty) Ltd is registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC).

If Mr Hendricks does decide to comment more fully we will publish his reply in the next available issue.