The last owners moved into their apartments at the Waldhaus Neuguet complex in Wallisellen at the end of 2019. This major project on the former Zwicky site suffered from delays of up to a year, partly due to planning errors by the developer Halter AG. However, instead of admitting its mistakes, Halter is passing the buck.
Steiner AG handed over the hotel in the complex in May 2019. The owners of the new flats were then able to move in successively between May and the end of last year. Following repeated requests by Steiner AG, Halter finally conducted the acceptance process on the completed complex on 13 March 2020, by which time Steiner had rectified most of the defects requiring remediation. Rectification of the last defects is currently delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Delays due to serious planning errors
When Steiner took over the project, the status and quality of the plans failed to meet the contractual agreement in many respects. For example, too little space had been planned for the smoke suppression system. Since the full extent of the planning errors only gradually became evident after signature of the total contractor agreement, Halter and Steiner altered the time schedule for realisation of the project in September 2018 and extended the deadlines.
The new agreement explicitly excluded the smoke suppression system because a final technical solution was not available at that time. Contrary to the agreements, Halter had not previously obtained important fire safety permits from the authorities. As a result of the planning errors, the fire safety authorities and building insurers were unable to conduct their acceptance procedures in time.
Acceptance of the system was only possible following expensive and time-consuming redesign, modifications and upgrade work by Steiner. Steiner AG is therefore asserting claims for the additional work caused by the smoke suppression system – as agreed with Halter AG in September 2018.
Breach of trust by Halter
It is very strange that, ten days after acceptance of the project on 23 March 2020, Halter obtained payment of approximately CHF 9 million through an unjustified claim on a performance guarantee provided by Steiner. That is particularly incomprehensible given the serious planning errors made by Halter.
Performance guarantees are provided to secure the construction of buildings, not for claims relating to alleged defects. These are covered by specific warranties in the contracts for the work performed. From Steiner's perspective, this constitutes a breach of trust by the developer. The last payment made by Halter to Steiner was on 9 July 2019. Since then, it has withheld payment of the undisputed claim to remuneration for work undertaken, which runs into double-digit millions.
Tradesman's lien as security
In view of Halter's unlawful use of the performance guarantee in violation of the agreement and its declared intention of withholding the final payments for the work performed, Steiner has been forced to apply for provisional registration of a tradesman's lien for the project site. The right to register a tradesman's lien was created by the legislative authorities to secure payment for work performed.
The Waldhaus Neuguet development in Wallisellen was a large and complex project that proved very challenging for everyone involved. Although many of the project partners did very good work, there were planning errors by Halter, which also failed to obtain the necessary permits, as well as mistakes in construction management and in the work performed by subcontractors. None of those involved can evade their responsibility. Steiner regrets the delays that occurred.
Steiner is rectifying the last defects
Working with subcontractors, Steiner is currently rectifying the final defects on the exterior of the buildings. These mainly relate to loggias and the building envelope. Since the work is weather-dependent, it could only recently be started. There are currently delays as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The present delays are due to supply bottlenecks and the fact that subcontractors are unable to work as efficiently as normal as a result of sickness and the necessary safety precautions. It is not yet clear who is responsible for the additional costs incurred due to the delays and defects.
Steiner AG, one of the leading project developers and general/total contractors (GC/TC) in Switzerland, offers comprehensive services in the fields of new construction, refurbishment and real estate development. The company, which was established in 1915, has constructed more than 1,500 residential projects, 540 commercial properties, 45 hotels and 200 infrastructure facilities such as universities, schools, hospitals, retirement homes and prisons. Steiner AG has its headquarters in Zurich and is represented by branches in Basel, Bern, Geneva, Tolochenaz and Lucerne.
Information for the media
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