CONSUMER: Heat rises as Portchester couple’s dream kitchen turns into a nightmare and leads to court showdown

Antonia Wood and her partner Ken Morgan in the kitchen of their home at White Hart Lane, Portchester     Picture: Habibur Rahman
Antonia Wood and her partner Ken Morgan in the kitchen of their home at White Hart Lane, Portchester Picture: Habibur Rahman
Picture: Shaun Roster

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A Portchester couple’s home conversion project turned into a nightmare because of problems with their new £6,900 fitted kitchen.

Antonia Wood and her partner Ken Morgan signed up to a kitchen package including appliances supplied by Portsmouth firm SDA Distributors Ltd.

SDA supplies a range of bespoke kitchens and boasts of creating kitchens for clients they’ll look forward to coming home to.

But the pair say they’ve been left angry and frustrated after their kitchen experience didn’t live up to the sales hype and the firm’s management gave them short shrift when they complained.

Antonia, 47, explained that their bungalow conversion project included a replacement kitchen, so last April they looked around for a supplier and settled for a kitchen package from the Hilsea firm.

On visiting its business premises, they were impressed by the quality of the kitchen with the added bonus that it would match their planned décor.

They put down £1,725 and arranged to pay the balance on delivery.

Antonia said: ‘The ongoing building work meant we weren’t in a position to have the kitchen installed until early July and all we can say is that since then it’s been a nightmare and we’ve had nothing but worry and grief.

‘It was due to be installed by the builders while we were on holiday, but it only arrived the day before we came back and most of it was still in boxes in the living room, even though SDA asked for full payment from us the week before.

‘There were so many parts missing – doors, handles, under-unit lighting, drawer sides – and glass shelves for a corner had been cut to the wrong size and weren’t replaced for four weeks.

But the couple’s frustration turned to fury when the appliances SDA supplied as part of the kitchen were either faulty, had been damaged in transit, or simply didn’t work.

The first thing they did on return from holiday was to tackle their laundry.

They used the washing machine and dryer and to their exasperation discovered the dryer was faulty.

A replacement dryer was so badly damaged straight out of its box that another replacement was ordered.

But on installation it was also found to be damaged and the on/off and drying controls had been incorrectly wired and reversed.

Ken got more than hot under the collar when a third replacement dryer developed a fault, posing a fire risk when it intermittently failed to switch off at the end of the drying cycle.

But Antonia says her kitchen from hell experience came to a head when the firm couldn’t provide an induction hob that worked properly.

One got so hot saucepans kept jumping from the heated surface and it had an infuriating tendency to switch itself off half-way though cooking.

The cutlery in the drawer below was so hot it couldn’t be handled without first dowsing it in cold water.

The replacement turned out to be useless as it took an age to heat up.

When the third replacement kept blowing the electrics, a thoroughly exasperated Antonia decided to get the installers to supply and fit a gas hob instead.

Tempers failed to cool when the refrigerator compartment of the fridge freezer kept freezing up and lumps of ice came away every time the door was opened.

No instruction book came with the appliance, but even when SDA finally supplied a photocopied one and the thermostat was turned right down to its minimal position, it made not a blind bit of difference.

They complained to SDA in August about a lack of competence to supply a fully-functioning kitchen and the duff appliances, but the kitchen is still not fully operational.

Following the catalogue of problems the couple had to deal with, they decided to withhold £500 from the final payment to cover their out-of-pocket expenses.

But they say they came up against a wall of indifference from SDA company boss Matthew Legge when they complained, and he finally refused to talk to them.

Mr Legge insisted any problems with the products the firm provided had been rectified and it had done its utmost to help sort out their complaints. Any remaining problems were down to them and their installers.

He demanded the couple pay up in full or he’d take them to court.

Antonia asked Streetwise for help, but after reviewing all the correspondence between the parties it became obvious that avoiding the courts was looking like mission impossible.

We asked Mr Legge for his side of the story, but he initially declined, claiming the dispute had already gone to law.

When we pointed out he’d only just filed a money claim and no trial date had been fixed, he agreed to give us a statement after he’d returned from a family holiday.

But when we asked him for a comment on his return a week later, he again declined.

We advised dementia carer Antonia that the law required SDA to be sufficiently competent to supply a kitchen free of hassle, and all the appliances to be of satisfactory quality, fit for their purpose, and to last for a reasonable time.

A furious Ken said: ‘We had an order form and we sat in Mr Legge’s office and together we ticked all the boxes for what was required for the kitchen.

‘SDA failed to deliver what was ordered for our fitters, and we were kept waiting for weeks for items that were missing. What with the sub-standard appliances, they’ve just left us with an unfinished kitchen.

‘The whole experience has been so stressful it frequently pushed Antonia over the edge and left her in tears.’

As SDA has refused to budge, Streetwise reluctantly advised the couple their only option was to defend the claim for full payment in court.

We’ll let readers know the outcome in due course.