Roofs fly in brand new Gov't-built scheme

Some Westmeade Willows residents angry

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Features editor — Sunday

Sunday, October 28, 2012    

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IT was just about the last thing they expected; that their brand new houses would leak, but that was the unfortunate reality of some homeowners in Westmeade Willows in Portmore, St Catherine, as Hurricane Sandy rained on the island last week.

The residents, who moved in earlier this year, reported that the outer layer of their roofs peeled off in the middle of Wednesday's torrents. As a result of that, they said, the underlying board got soaked and water streamed down their walls, drenching their belongings and flooding their floors.

One of the homeowners with whom the Sunday Observer spoke was steaming. She alleged that the situation indicated poor workmanship on the part of the contractors.

"I was, like, mad; I was real upset," she said.

"This was a house I paid $8.1 million for and it's only been three months since it was handed over and this shouldn't be happening. I am upset; this should never be happening any at all.

"It just goes to show that it was improperly done, it was poor work, unprofessional," she continued.

The cop, who asked that her name be withheld because of the nature of her job, said she was on duty during Sandy's onslaught and wasn't aware of the damage until the following day.

"I wasn't at home during the rain. (On Thursday) when I got home, I realised that a section of the roof was damaged in the sense that the shingles had lifted off and hence, the water soaked through the board. The most damage for me was in the back, in the washroom. Water wet up whatever was in there," the policewoman said.

She said five or six houses on her street suffered similar damage, but it was worse for two families down the street who had the entire shingled part of the roof lift.

"What held them from falling to the ground was the solar tank on the roof. When I was there yesterday they (work crews) came with a piece of tarpaulin and put over where was damaged to prevent the water from going in," she said, adding that she had seen her neighbours sweeping water out of the house prior to the arrival of the contractors.

When the Sunday Observer visited the community last week, work crews were in the the process of making repairs.

Westmeade Willows has a total of 125 two-bedroom houses which were advertised for sale at $8 million. It was develped by the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) — the former National Housing Development Corporation which was responsible for Operation Pride.

When contacted, the company confirmed that the shingles had lifted during the rains. Communications Manager Richard Jones was apologetic.

"We appreciate how they feel [for] these are new houses," he said. "But we are doing everything we can to have the situation remedied."

Public Relations Officer Dahlia Moseley told the Observer, however, that there was no leaking and that the agency dispatched work crews to effect the necessary repairs once it was safe to do so.

"Two houses had major damage with shingles blowing off. One or two other may have had shingles coming off, but the team is reporting that only two houses need immediate attention. It's unfortunate that that happened, and we've taken steps to correct it," she said.

Asked whether the agency has received other reports of structural failure from Westmeade residents, Moseley responded in the negative. She, however, suggested that since it was a new development, it could not be perfect.

"With any new construction (though), it's really the trials and tests of the situation which will [work out the kinks]... Every homeowner, when they buy a new house expects it to be perfect, but we always work along with our customers to make sure that whatever issues they have we work it out," she said, explaining that homeowners can report problems to the HAJ's after-sales desk.

HAJ's warranty on homes in Westmeade Willows is between six months and a year.

The female cop, who said she moved to Westmeade from rented premises in Greater Portmore, said she had hoped that her house would have been of similar quality to other develeopments the HAJ has done in Portmore, including Palms of Portmore and the high-end Portmore Country Club, and was cautious about the repairs beng done by the developers.

"I was thinking I was getting something like that or similar, or even better, but I guess not. I was disappointed...

"They are fixing what's on the outside, but in order for the roof to leak there must be some damage on the inside. Something has to be wrong on the inside, so if they are thinking that they are going to fix what's on the outside and that's it, then they have another guess coming," she said.

Other residents also complained about other issues with the newly handed over houses.

"You turn on the verandah light and the kitchen one come on. You turn on the shower and the low pipe come on instead," one woman said.

"This is what they do to poor people; when you can't go uptown and purchase a $10 or $15-million house," said another.

In addition to those developments already mentioned, the HAJ also built Portmore Villas in the municipality.





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