Craig Aynsley and his partner Claire, pictured in happier times before he fell ill with cancer
Craig Aynsley, 46 from Northumberland, has been unable to work for five years after two separate battles with cancer – but thought his life had turned a corner last year after finding his dream home.
After putting down a £36,000 deposit back in November with developer Story Homes, Craig and his partner Claire planned to move in this year.
However, when the country was forced into lockdown by the coronavirus, Craig was advised by his doctors not to leave his home after recently being screened for prostate cancer and possible lymphoma.
As well as facing another cancer diagnosis, he also suffers from a host of other conditions which make him ‘particularly vulnerable’ to coronavirus, according to a note from his cardiologist seen by This is Money.
But despite this and Government advice to delay home moves, developer Story Homes has insisted that he complete the purchase of his home today – which would require him to break his quarantine to visit the bank and to collect the keys.
Not only that, but in communications seen by This is Money, solicitors acting on behalf of Story Homes have threatened to keep his £1,000 reservation fee along with the £35,999 deposit if he doesn’t comply with their demands.
Story Homes, which closed its show homes, marketing suites and building sites last week in response to the virus, claim that as the property is currently vacant they are not breaking the government’s advice by not granting Craig a delay.
The developer has also said that Craig’s partner Claire, who is his carer, could collect the keys.
However, while the government advice does say that vacant homes can be moved into, it also states that anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus should follow medical advice and not move house.
As Craig’s live-in carer, this applies to Claire as well as Craig.
‘I will not allow any of my family to risk their life during this current pandemic and Story Homes should not expect them to when the Prime Minister has clearly stated to stay at home,’ Craig adds.
The government says that anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus should follow medical advice and not move house (Pictured: the house Craig is buying)
The government’s official guidelines state that ‘all parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group’.
Craig says: ‘I have gone through so much in life and this property was meant to help aid my rehabilitation and was our dream home. Story Homes are well aware of what I have been through and what I am currently going through with my health.
‘I have explained time and time again that I am regarded as being in a high risk group and very vulnerable to coronavirus during this current pandemic and unfortunately have been told that I must self-isolate and stay at home, which means I cannot visit the site, receive keys or visit the bank to transfer funds.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick: The government says all parties should agree to change move dates for vulnerable buyers
‘I cannot understand why Story Homes thinks that I should risk my life and disobey my medical professionals’ and the Government’s advice.’
He also says he cannot insure the property as it will be unoccupied for more than 30 days while the lockdown continues, breaching the terms of his home insurance.
A Story Homes spokeswoman told This is Money: ‘As a family-owned business, we certainly have sympathy for these purchasers in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
‘The couple purchasing this property – a fully furnished show home – are not being asked to breach current Public Health England rules.
‘Legal completion can be done without any physical contact and we would, of course, adhere to social distancing measures whilst handing over the keys. The couple have no chain and do not need to move out of their current property immediately.
‘Story Homes feels it has done everything possible to accommodate these customers throughout their purchasing journey – from accelerating the sale of this property at their request, to making adaptations to the property to help with the customer’s ailments, at no extra cost.’
Craig alleges that Story Homes’ claims that the sale of the property was accelerated at his request and was adapted are untrue.
He claims that neither he nor his partner ‘stated that we must complete by March’ and that ‘there was no rush to complete from our end’.
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The Story Homes spokeswoman added: ‘As a responsible house builder we must meet our financial obligations, such as paying our staff and the local subcontractors who help build our homes.
‘In line with Government guidance, which states that the sale of vacant homes may go ahead, it is therefore crucial that our customers fulfil their contractual obligations to help ensure we fulfil ours.’
Story Homes made a profit of £25.9million in the year to March 2019, according to the latest available public accounts.
Before the lockdown, the company said it had ‘implemented stringent health and safety policies focussed on protecting [its] customers and staff’ and ‘politely requested’ customers only visit its marketing suites if there was no risk they had come into contact with coronavirus.
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