Aspiring real estate tycoon evicted from town by angry creditors

Mini Hamptons advertised custom small luxury homes that were prefabricated and installed on site in six weeks, costing less than $150,000. York’s wife, Kirsten, who was the manager of York Building, told the… Daily mail in 2020 that the couple built typically “beautiful residential homes” and wanted to expand into the granny condo market.

“We wanted to challenge the perception that luxury living was only reserved for the wealthy and designed the mini-Hamptons so that every inch of the compact home felt elegant with quality finishes,” Kirsten York said at the time. She declined to comment on this story.

“He was constantly sending text messages, constant emails, constant phone calls… After we deposited the money, we heard almost nothing from him.”

Emma Foley

Rising construction costs and supply chain shortages have contributed to: several high-profile collapses in construction in the past two years. The number of bankruptcies in the construction sector was 46 percent higher in April than the same time last year, accounting for almost 30 percent of all bankruptcies.

But most consumers are protected by the Housing Compensation Fund. Builders are required to purchase insurance from the fund for residential projects over $20,000, which compensates owners if the builder dies, disappears or becomes insolvent. State building laws also protect consumers by not allowing builders to make a down payment of more than 10 percent.

A spokesperson for Fair Trading NSW said none of the cases it investigated in conjunction with David York appeared to have home warranty insurance. “Consumers who have had dealings with York Building Pty Ltd or Mini Hamptons Pty Ltd are encouraged to contact Fair Trading through its website,” he said. “The investigation is ongoing and cannot comment further at this time.”

Another York client, who declined to be named by name due to embarrassment, said she hired Mini Hamptons to build a granny flat for her in-laws who moved in with them in Mittagong last September. She paid a 30 percent down payment, and York told her the project did not require council approval.

But after she and her husband paid $89,327 to a surveyor in August and an additional $1,800 in November, she said York had stopped returning her messages. In January, she emailed him to ask what had happened to the granny flat. Her in-laws now lived in their house and her father-in-law slept on the couch.

She asked York to refund the money if he couldn’t deliver. York replied, “I’m sorry I didn’t call you back. I’m really struggling with the signal as I’m not in the highlands right now. I will do my very best to deliver your unit. I’m just waiting for the city’s drainage approval. Once I have that, we can start.”

It wasn’t until the following month that she learned that his company was in liquidation and that he had no home insurance policy. The Council also informed her that a development permit would be required and would cost an additional $20,000. “I’ve got four pegs in the ground for $91,000,” she said.

‘It’s still very traumatic’

The list of creditors also includes tilers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, masons and other subcontractors. Plumber Paul McMullen, who worked for York in Sydney in 2017, said York was often in arrears. “A lot of tradies came and went because they weren’t paid,” McMullen said.

Electrician Mitchell Logan said he still owed about $8,000 for work he did for York last year. He said his inspection of the books revealed that York was taking large sums of money from people before laying a foundation.

“My last job with Dave was about Christmas,” Logan said. ‘I said, ‘Are you going to pay my last bill?’ and he said, ‘No, idiot, I’m going into liquidation’. I said, ‘How are you going to repay these people?’ and he said, ‘I will’.”

A third couple paid the York Building more than $200,000 to upgrade the kitchen and bathrooms, and redo the flooring and paintwork in their newly acquired Burradoo home. When they moved in 15 weeks later, expecting it to be finished, the kitchen and bathrooms had been gutted and the floor stripped throughout the house. The tiler said he hadn’t been paid. The plumbing company was unaware that one of its young employees was doing the job over the weekend. The only water source in the house was in the laundry.

“It’s still very traumatic,” the woman said. “No kitchen, no bathroom, no floor, nothing at all.”

A building inspection report, seen by the Herald, found that everything that was completed had to be redone. “The quality of this ensuite is of such substandard level that the only recommendation is to completely strip the bathroom and start over,” it said.

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York said only one of his clients did not have home insurance and that the contracts, including terms for the deposits, had been drawn up by his lawyer. “That’s lack of experience on my part not to understand that,” he said. “Mistakes were made, but it wasn’t done from a bad place.”

The March liquidator’s update stated that initial investigations revealed the company’s failure due to poor cash flow, significant rework of builds due to under-quoting, poor estimates or workmanship, and possibly the pandemic. “The absence of company information has hampered my investigation and therefore my ability to report further on ‘what happened to the company,'” wrote liquidator Alan Hayes.

The largest debtor was another company within the York group.

“The company was insolvent at the time I was appointed liquidator and it was probably insolvent for some time before that, but at this stage my investigations have not been completed,” Hayes told the Herald

“We have asked” [the Australian Securities and Investments Commission] for assistance in requiring Mr York to respond more to our requests.”

He estimated creditors’ chances of receiving a dividend at this point at ‘zero’.

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