‘Lost hope’: Fears builder could collapse

‘Lost hope’: Fears builder could collapse

A Sydney builder has “vanished” leaving homeowners “distressed” as they have poured hundreds of thousands into unfinished houses and face never being able to complete them.

However, the owner of Ajit Constructions, Amarjit Khakh said he is currently on a family holiday in Europe and is doing his best to try not to go into liquidation.

Neeraj Sikka and his family are one of the impacted homeowners, who have been building an $885,000 home in the suburb of North Kellyville, which was meant to be completed by June this year.

Instead, the 46-year-old has been left with a half-built house that has no roof and has been exposed to months of rain leaving the floorboards mouldy and black, said Mr Sikka.

The NSW public servant said no work has been done on his house for the past eight weeks and recently the scaffolding has been taken down, the toilet has been removed and a tradie has also collected all the materials.

He said has been to Ajit Constructions office every week but the staff and owner have seemingly “vanished” with the office closed, he said.

Meanwhile, the owner of the building company can be seen travelling around Europe with photos posted to his private Facebook page, while his voicemail also states he is overseas.

Calls to the number listed on Ajit Constructions website do not connect, with a message saying it is currently unavailable.

Emails from Ajit Constructions to buyers in recent months have also spoken about the “cash crunch” and being “tight on cashflow”.

Empty offices

News.com.au visited Ajit Constructions offices in Bella Vista during business hours and found the door locked and blinds closed, while no one responded to knocking on the door.

But the builder, Mr Khahk, said his family’s European holiday was “booked almost five years ago using savings from my wife’s job” and its their first holiday in that time.

“We are trying to keep the business alive as this is all I have,” he said.

“We have stopped our own mortgage payments to pay for the increase of prices with materials since Covid and made many personal financial sacrifices.

“We also didn’t plan for our three key management members to leave one week after we went overseas”

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Mr Sikka said he has paid out $387,000 to Ajit Construction – 40 per cent of the project price – but has no idea what is happening with his home and as a result his health has suffered.

“I am very distressed. I can’t sleep at night. I’m talking to a psychiatrist and I’m on blood pressure medication right now,” he told news.com.au.

“I’m writing emails at three at night with no respite and I’m so deep in debt I borrowed $800 from someone to pay bills.

“I can barely breathe sometimes I get so anxious from anxiety attacks. My family is so distressed. I have constant fights at home.

“I don’t have money and had to borrow money from friends and my wife feels like it’s pretty insulting – we both work and I have gotten her into this mess and it’s no fault of mine.”

Mr Sikka, who has two children aged 12 and 14, signed a contract for Ajit Constructions to build his two-storey, five-bedroom house in June 2021 and doesn’t know what to do with the incomplete house.

“I tried to ask someone if I can sell the land, but it’s not land and it’s not a house – it’s half done. So we would need to knock it down and lose $387,000, so we are stuck to an extent where we have nowhere to go,” he said.

“I’m wondering how we are going to get out of this thing. There is no one I can go and talk to because the builder has vanished.”

No way out

The dad-of-two is forking out $1500 a week on interest for his home loan and rent, but fears losing the half-built house entirely with no communication from the builder, he said.

“I won’t be able to build as I don’t have any money any more right now and have been talking to friends, family just to see what I can do or if I can sell this place and to see how do I move out of this whole mess,” he said.

“I might have to end up with nothing as I owe money to the bank, I can’t pay every week, I can’t sustain the $1500 every week and for the last so many months nothing is happening on site.

“I really don’t have any money. I am really ashamed. I never thought in my whole life this would happen to me while living in Australia. I’ve been here for close to 17 years.”

Mr Sikka said he is not the only one in a “dire situation” adding he knows of 11 families who have been impacted.

An email from Ajit Construction on July 1 to Mr Sikka said they were unable to pay for his appliances order and said “at the moment, we are very tight on cash flow due to upfront payments to vendors for various projects. We can’t pay right now”.

Mr Sikka said he had attempted to contact Ajit Constructions from July 4 and there had been no response to emails or calls.

News.com.au has called, emailed and texted Ajit Constructions but has not received a response.

Life savings squandered

Another family that had been saving their whole life for their first home was Manish Agrawal’s.

They signed up to build a double storey duplex, with four bedrooms in each, for $698,700 with Ajit Constructions in July last year in the suburb of Schofields, which was renamed to Nirimba Fields.

But the married man said despite paying $152,000 for construction, including $12,000 directly to suppliers for window frames and bricks, he only has a slab and partition wall on his property.

Earlier this month, the dad of a two children aged 16 and 10, terminated the contract with Ajit Constructions, but has still been left in limbo.

He hasn’t received a response from Ajit Constructions since July 14 after requesting various compliance certificates he needs for another builder to take on the job and complete his home, he said.

Yet Ajit Constructions owner Mr Khakh said he wants “nothing more” to build customers their dream home and still has “every intention to make sure they are not left in limbo”.

“I have been in contact with our clients as much as I can and have a small but hard working construction team,” he said.

The bank worker describes the experience as “horrible” and quotes seen by news.com.au shows he will be forced to pay out a large amount of money for a new builder.

“I’m stuck so badly. No one is working on my site and we can’t go to another builder until I have the certificates and they are not co-operating with me,” he said.

“I’m looking for another builder and I’m in touch with a couple of builders who are asking for minimum of $150,000 to $260,000 more to complete the project.

“It’s such a huge amount of money which I don’t know how I will arrange as it’s unlikely the bank will fund the difference.”

Financial stress

Mr Agrawal said he would have to borrow money from friends and family to complete the duplex and sell the second one straight away to pay them back, rather than using it as a rental.

The 43-year-old said he is also experiencing financial stress as he spends $520 a week on rent, $2100 for the mortgage on his land and $300 per month in interest for his construction loan, although this will go up with the principal amount set to kick in from September.

The dad-of-two added that the stressful experience had also impacted his mental health.

“There is so much mental stress and trauma, me and my whole family are going through and this builder is enjoying a holiday,” he said.

“He called me up from Europe three or four weeks back.”

Then there’s Reza Thebuwana who has already paid $297,000 to Ajit Constructions for a single storey, four bedroom home in Nirimba Fields.

The IT worker, who has three kids, signed up with the company in March 2021 to build his $330,000 home.

The 39-year-old said he had paid to lock up stage, yet part of the roof is not complete meaning water seeps into the internal walls and there is mould on the gyprock showing.

There are no kitchen fittings and the electrical work and plumbing hasn’t even started, while the bathroom is also missing tiles, he added.

‘Living nightmare’

Mr Thebuwana describes his situation as a “living nightmare”.

“This builder told us that they would hand over the house in April 2022, so given the short period we moved into a two-bedroom apartment and have been living in this temporary location for nearly two years now with two fully grown kids and a newborn,” he revealed.

“It’s very difficult, it’s a big toll on the children, I feel so bad for them. It’s not ideal living conditions for staying such a long time.

“Health wise I’ve got type 2 diabetes and blood pressure which came on only after this. I was fully healthy and fit and now my health is deteriorating seriously.”

He said he’s been left in serious “limbo” while also taking a financial blow as he pays $700 a month for interest on the construction loan, as well as council rates and $490 a week on rent.

“The builder is not doing anything and even though they told me they don’t have money to do that work, they are not filing for bankruptcy either and I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” he said.

But Ajit Constructions owner Mr Khahk said a “a lot of construction companies are in a similar boat”.

“We are trying our best not go into liquidation/declare bankruptcy since we understand that is only going to put more pressure on the community,” he said.

“Our plan is to have personal meetings with clients as soon we return which they said they understand. I am still speaking with clients however we have also missed one another’s calls due to the time difference.”

No man’s land

Mr Thebuwana is pleading with Ajit Constructions to either finish his home or go into liquidation so he can move on, even if it means facing paying out an extra $70,000 to get the house complete.

“We need to move forward rather than be stuck in no man’s land,” he added. “We feel helpless”.

For engineer Imran Ali, he doesn’t know how he will ever complete the family house after signing up with Ajit Constructions to build a three-bedroom house for $332,000.

As he watched the houses around him being built on the same street in the suburb of Rouse Hill, he said his own home stalled.

The 38-year-old has already forked out $270,000 to Ajit Constructions but claims no work has happened since just after mid May and has been left with just a shell of a house.

“There has been no communication on when the next work or stage is planned or when the house will be delivered,” he added.

“I had a call with them in June in which they asked me to pay for the rest of the work directly to tradies and suppliers. They verbally confirmed that it will cost upwards of $150,000 but they never provided that in writing.”

Now, he doesn’t know how he will finish the house and he is unable to get in contract with Ajit Constructions.

“I have been sending an email every week and I try to call them but they don’t respond at all,” he said.

“They had 10 employees last year and now they have one or two … There is no one left in the company to answer queries. I went to the office … and it was always closed.”

The father of one said he has been “pretty badly affected” both financially as he pays $4500 a month on both rent and his mortgage, while his health has also suffered.

“I don’t sleep much nowadays. I keep checking what my options are – it’s affected my health, I’ve lost a lot of weight, because this is my first home and whatever savings I had in India I had to convert into dollars and I put all my money in this,” he said.

“Now it’s the stage that I need to put $180,000 to $250,000 more in and there’s only $65,000 left on the loan so I don’t know how to pay for it.

“If I don’t get the loan then I can’t finish the house. I may have to sell it as a half done house and I don’t know if someone would buy it.”

Mr Ali said he would ideally like Ajit Constructions to complete his house but said he “lost hope a long time ago”.

‘Not liveable’

Then there’s Ashish Kandoi who had Ajit Constructions agree to pay $3200 a month if his house wasn’t finished by February this year in an email seen by news.com.au.

Yet the house remains incomplete and he said he still hasn’t seen a cent, he said.

The 38-year-old had signed on to build a double storey house, four bedroom house in Rouse Hill with Ajit Constructions in October 2020.

He’s paid $330,000 to the company but currently has a house that he claims is missing various work, has gaps between the windows and bricks and no appliances, he said.

“It is not liveable, because there is no electricity or water in the house so obviously we can’t live there,” he said.

“A lot of work is half done and a lot of work has been done wrong, but at this stage I want the house to be completed rather than getting a perfect house.”

The dad-of-one claims there have just been “false promises” to get the house finished.

“I lost all hope when no work happened for two months,” he added.

The house is now 12 months overdue and he hasn’t been able to get in contact with Ajit Constructions for a number of weeks.

“It’s a complete standstill, there is no work, no communication, no updates,” he said.

He describes it as a “terrible situation” which is all consuming for his family and has impacted his health.

“I started getting chest pains six months back. It was constant chest pains and I went to the doctor and emergency care and luckily, they did not find issues,” he said.

“I’m really stressed and my chest pain start all of a sudden. My wife just recently got detected with thyroid issues and anxiety.”

Mr Kandoi has been desperate to see his family in India too after his sister passed away with Covid, but the nightmare experience has made it impossible.

The accountant is also finding things financially “tight”.

“So we decided to take out a $50,000 personal loan in case something happens so we have money in account to meet mortgage payments, its 7 per cent interest rates on those personal loans too,” he added.

Mr Kandoi added he would need to pay an extra $100,000 to a new builder to complete the home.

Dreams shattered

For accountant Dharmesh Shah, who has spent 15 years alongside his wife saving to build their home, their dream has been shattered.

They signed a $350,000 contract in February 2021 to build a five bedroom, double storey home with Ajit Constructions.

He said he’s paid $67,000 and been left with a slab and half the framing for the house and no work has been done on the site since February this year, the month the house was meant to be complete.

Yet, in April, he received an email from Ajit Construction asking him to pay $40,000 to complete the framing stage as the company was going through “cash crunch situations”, but he refused to pay.

Mr Shah said he has been left devastated.

“The situation right now is interest rates are going up and I received another letter from the bank that repayments are going up and most builders are saying they are not willing to pick up the work as there is an issue on who will take on the home insurance warranty for it,” he said.

“The frame has been open since June last year so that’s 365 days of hot, cold, wet and soggy weather. People are throwing rubbish on site, it’s been used as a dumping site with all McDonald’s and KFC left there and people have been putting wet nappies. I don’t know if the frames will be completely spoiled.

“The frames are half done, so I would need to pay $20,000 to remove the frames and it will cost $100,000 to complete the house.”

He said he has spent $10,000 on legal advice and is also shelling out $775 week a rent and then $2000 a month for mortgage instalments, leaving him well out of pocket.

The 40-year-old added he also works in real estate and is now a “clown” in his network as he goes through the nightmare experience, adding its causing a “mountain of stress”.

“I have saved and work hard and I’ve working two jobs and now I’m in a situation where I don’t have any choice but to shell out $120,000 more to get into my own home,” he added. “The situation is my wife and son don’t even want to move into the house anymore as they just have sour memories.”

Mr Shah said he doesn’t even know if he can complete the home as he is “struggling to even find a builder” to take on the project.

All the homeowners said they had made complaints to NSW Fair Trading, the NSW government agency icare which providers insurance to statutory authorities as well as the Australian Security and Investment Commission.

One homeowner even pleaded with the NSW builder commissioner on LinkedIn for help, who put him in touch with his office.

NSW Fair Trading confirmed to news.com.au that it was currently investigating Ajit Constructions but declined to provide further details.

News.com.au understands there are a number of suppliers also chasing Ajit Constructions for money too.

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