Hobart franchise LV Built, attached to G.J. Gardner Homes, goes bust

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They thought they were signing up for their dream homes to be built.

The company they chose had promised “peace of mind” on its brochures, along with a high standard of workmanship, so it had seemed like a safe choice.

However, it wasn’t long before the customers of a Hobart franchise operated by LV Built, and attached to the major national construction company G.J. Gardner Homes, demanded that action be taken.

The bid for intervention came amid reports of issues with the speed of the builds and problems with cashflow. There were also work stoppages, defects and allegations of approved plans not being followed.

Some homes needed remediation, and contractors also alleged money was owed to them.

However, the franchisee continued for a year until its liquidation this week, which was confirmed by Trent Gardner, CEO of G.J. Gardner Homes.

“G.J. Gardner Homes can regretfully confirm that independent builder LV Built Pty Ltd, trading as G.J. Gardner Homes Hobart West, has entered into liquidation and is now closed, as of 2 April 2024,” Mr Gardner told news.com.au in a statement.

“The situation with the former G.J. Gardner Hobart West franchise is very unfortunate for all involved.

“At this time, our primary focus is for the impacted customers and their homes. We have begun working with the appointed liquidator and are speaking with each customer to better assess the situation and their individual circumstances.”

It comes after two other G.J. Gardner franchises collapsed last year. A franchisee in Springfield, Queensland, declared itself bankrupt, and Perth West entered liquidation.

Customers have shared their experiences with the company with the ABC. Akinola Ekundayo said he contacted a Sydney office of G.J. Gardner Homes, and was passed on to the Hobart office.

“We thought, ‘G.J. Gardner is G.J. Gardner’,” Mr Ekundayo said.

The family ended up signing a contract in August 2021 with LV Built, thinking it was with G.J. Gardner.

Work began on their home in Tasmania in July 2023 and then stopped, with a downpour in October causing the retaining wall to partially collapse. While LV Built tried to fix the wall, a building surveyor issued a notice to the council for work to stop.

“It looks abandoned, my site is abandoned. Nothing is going up here,” Mr Ekundayo said.

Despite complaints to G.J. Gardner Australia, there has been no work since.

“LV Built trading as G.J. Gardner Hobart is your builder, not G.J. Gardner Australia. We cannot build for you, nor take over the build from Ludek … at LV Built,” G.J. Gardner reportedly told the Ekundayos in an email.

Meanwhile, another customer named Owen Knight said he immediately spotted issues with his Huon Valley build and said a portion of the slab “was missing”.

He claimed that was just the start of the structural issues, which included an incorrect roof pitch, a chipped moisture loop in the garage and blocked floor waste, among other issues.

“I noticed all of these defects, some of them serious structural defects, being built into the house,” Mr Knight said.

A third customer, who wished to remain anonymous, also had a bad experience.

“The corners of the slab had sort of chipped away and fallen in, and then it wasn’t square. We were told, don’t worry about it,” he alleged.

“It was very, like, ‘That’s normal, it’s not going to cause any issues.’”

He was shocked when told his house was finished, apparently prematurely.

“When in the bathrooms, there were no taps on the walls, and the bath had no plumbing at all underneath. It was just a hole to the ground,” he claimed.

“It was nothing like a completed house.”

He said an independent building inspector found almost 50 pages of substandard and incomplete work.

“That our first home. It was supposed to be an exciting journey to bring that to life. And the whole thing was just totally stressful.”

The Hobart franchise still has 30 homes under construction. Liquidator Rodgers Reidy is contacting each customer and subcontractor.

Mr Gardner said his company would be offering support to those affected.

“G.J. Gardner Homes will use all the means at our disposal to help customers to source alternative local builders to finish the homes under construction and enable a smooth transition.”

G.J. Gardener cited “difficult trading conditions” as a reason it was slow to act.

“Once we became aware of the worsening situation for the Hobart West franchise as a result of these conditions, we provided guidance and support to rectify its operations and finances,” the company said in a statement.

“More recently, we had breached the franchise and taken further steps to help it to improve.”

G.J. Gardener will not renew its contract with LV Built when it expires towards the end of the year.

“We would like to reassure that this closure relates only to one franchise office in Hobart West and in no way reflects the broader G.J. Gardner Homes franchise network of nearly 100 local builders who are successfully building homes for families right across Australia.”