The homes were sold with missing or incorrectly installed fire barriers, which are designed to prevent the spread of fire, according to a new episode airing on BBC One tonight.
Living in a home with missing or incorrectly installed fire barriers is like “driving a car without an airbag”, expert Andrew Mellor told the programme.
In April last year, on the Persimmon Homes Greenacres development in Exeter, a fire started by a cigarette on the ground floor of a house spread to the roof and then on to other properties.
Fire barriers missing or badly installed
The TV show reports that an investigation at the time found that 37 per cent of the houses on the estate were missing fire barriers or had them installed incorrectly.
However the series found that many of the issues in the Greenacres homes have been resolved.
More Persimmon homes were evacuated in 2018 in Coventry, where 48 apartments needed to be evacuated due to defects including missing fire barriers. Some residents are still living in temporary accommodation.
BBC Watchdog also found “fire safety issues” in Bellway Homes developments in Kent and West Lothian.
Concerned West Lothian residents contacted the BBC Watchdog series, which sent out its own surveyor to assess the properties. He found poorly fitted fire barriers at all four houses, with gaps around them that would stop them from properly doing their job.
Both developers ‘addressing’ the problem
Both Persimmon Homes and Bellway Homes have said they are looking into the problems.
Building regulations require new homes to be built with fire protection measures in order to delay the spread of fire and allow people more time to escape to safety. In new builds, particularly timber-framed structures, fire barriers are central to this fire protection.
They form a seal to prevent fire spreading from one room to another. Without them, fire and smoke can travel five to 10 times quicker.
‘Customer safety is taken seriously’
A spokesperson for Bellway Homes told BBC Watchdog Live, "Bellway takes our customer’s safety extremely seriously and we will investigate and address any raised concerns immediately, where there is perceived to be an imminent danger to persons or property.
And a spokesperson for Persimmon said, "We are taking this very seriously and have taken extensive action since the issue was discovered."
"This should not have happened and we would like to apologise to all affected homeowners and assure them that we are doing everything we can to rectify the issue swiftly."
The new series of BBC Watchdog Live starts tonight (Wednesday 1st May) at 8pm on BBC One and on iPlayer.