A high court judge has ordered Shepherd Homes to pay almost £900,000 in damages to 10 homeowners whose houses suffered cracks and subsidence.
The decision paves the way for a far larger settlement as the 10 lead cases will be followed by those from 40 more homeowners on the estate, also seeking compensation.
Payouts awarded so far range between £65,929 and £124,375, totalling £877,943. The case relates to the Eden Park development in Hartlepool, built on a former landfill site by Shepherd between 2001 and 2004.
In March 2003 cracks and movement became evident, with parts of the properties sinking by as much as 10 inches.
At London’s High Court, Mr Justice Ramsey found the developer had breached the homeowner’s Buildmark Cover and the Defective Premises Act. He said: “There can be no question the claimants have each suffered from the fact that the houses had defective piles.
“It has caused them great worry and concern and prevented them from moving home or fully enjoying the houses. In such circumstances, there is great sympathy with the position in which the claimants have found themselves and an obvious wish to provide the claimants with proper damages.
“On the basis of my findings on these cases it is hoped the parties will be able to resolve the claims on the remaining properties.”
Mr Ramsey said damages should be awarded based on loss of value at the affected properties as repairs would involve partial demolition and rebuilding. The company will still have to pay for some repairs on the lead cases so the total bill is set to increase substantially.
Speaking after the hearing, Alison Leith, partner with Tilly Bailey and Irvine Solicitors, which represented the homeowners, said: “This judgment is the next step in resolving these issues and providing the homeowners with the compensation they deserve.”
A Shepherd spokesman said: “We are reviewing the judgment and details of what has been a very complex case, and will work responsibly with all parties to resolve the outstanding issues.
“The financial consequences should be covered by the insurance arrangements in place.”