Skanska – Are They “Bully Builders”?

There are many good articles to write about when you have years of professional experience of finance and investment, as is the case with your correspondent. 

Most of these articles start with media conferences or public announcements, but occasionally the subject of an article can come from a chance meeting.

This happened the other evening while sitting in a new restaurant called “Story” in a nice location in a new apartment block built by Skanska that overlooks the west harbour in Helsinki. 

A young man sitting on the next table, a self-confessed resident of this same building, started chatting with me about his and other residents’ recent experiences (fruitless arguments would be a better word) with Skanska.

The story line is typically one of a big corporation facing down little people who have used their hard-earned savings to buy a high-end apartments, costing over €12 000 for each square meter, and then complain that there are a hundred building faults that need repairing. 

Any normal self-respecting builder does not build badly constructed apartments, and if one or two faults are discovered they do not hesitate to repair them. But when you are dealing with Skanska, according to this young man sitting on the next table, there were dozens of serious building faults like incorrectly fitted waste pipes, cracking and falling brickwork, damaged interior fittings, etc… Not only did they have a long list, but he told us that Skanska was even refusing to answer the phone! They appear to have outsourced the complaints function to a third party!

He then explained that since Skanska was not taking their complaints seriously, they decided to take their complaints to the ombudsman who officially decided in the residents’ favour after many months.

But let’s backtrack a little. If you are having to pay €12 000 a square meter for an apartment next to the water you have the right to expect that the apartment is beautifully finished to the highest possible standards. Skanska obviously has their own understanding about what “the highest possible standards” means… their smugness has no limits in true Trumpian style. 

Obviously if you buy one of their apartments and dare to start to complain with cracks, clogged pipes, with leaking roofs then you are obviously a worthless worm who should move elsewhere because there are so many keen buyers just queueing up to buy…

Your correspondent happens to live in a 100-year old apartment in great condition and has watched with interest how Skanska’s workers have been building these gloomy concrete boxes this last year. They have built them in freezing hail and snow in winter and, during the warming days of spring, in the pouring rain. Very little thought has been given to protecting the building when water pours down or freezes on the concrete and on the insulation.

… and the same carelessness  can be seen at the building site – it is a a sight for sore eyes with rubbish and building materials lying around the site in that sloppy fashion which describes quite well the finished product.

But the young man sitting on the next table had not finished – there is a third party to this story – Helsinki’s building inspectors. According to this young man, the inspectors have apparently signed off parts of the work and permitted residents to move into apartments when it is quite clear that the apartments have not been carefully inspected. 

Naturally your correspondent was not able to verify these serious complaints, but it appears that this particular apartment block has a number of apartments that are still not fully completed, and that Skanska has not yet been able to hand over possession and management of the building to the resident’s board in accordance with our housing law. Such a handover cannot happen before the building is fully complete and only when the building inspectors have officially completed and signed off their inspection of the building. 

Cutting corners is not what you expect from any large building company, and certainly not from official building inspectors who have an important task of ensuring that building regulations are adhered to strictly.

This story points to the possibility of a relationship between Skanska and the city that is a little too close for comfort. People who pay top dollar for luxury apartments should be able to expect the best quality and courteous treatment from the construction company and from the city… but this story appears to tell a very different reality.

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