Husband and wife doctors sue architect claiming he used cash from their £3.2m refurbishment to build a granny annex at his own home
- Doctors Stephen and Preeti Pereira are suing architect Simon Whitehead
- The couple say Mr Whitehead ‘secretly’ used their money to renovate his home
- The Pereiras spent £3.2million a ‘luxury’ house revamp that overran by a year
- They claim Mr Whitehead’s personal projects caused their project to overrun
- Mr and Mrs Whitehead say the claims are ‘scandalous’ and deny all wrongdoing
A wealthy doctor couple who spent £3.2million a ‘luxury’ house remodel are suing their architect for allegedly ‘secretly’ using their money to put in a granny flat at his own home.
Dr Stephen Pereira and his wife Dr Preeti Pereira enlisted a top architect to design a high-end refurbishment of their south London home. The revamp started in 2018.
But the project, which included a basement covering the entire footprint of their £5million-plus home, overran by a year and ended up costing them over £3million to complete, they say – £1million more than the original quote.
The millionaire medics are now suing Simon Whitehead, his company and his solicitor wife Victoria, claiming the project only overran because the pair used the Pereiras’ builder to do work on their own home.
The couple claim payments they made towards their own building project were diverted by the builder to fund works at the Whiteheads’ homes and their company’s headquarters.
Mr and Mrs Whitehead say the claims are ‘scandalous’ and deny all wrongdoing, blaming ‘expensive and luxurious’ extras added to the Pereiras’ project, along with failings by the builder and the impact of Covid, for the extra cost and time spent.
They insist they paid the builder themselves for the work on their properties and that the allegations are a bid to get the Whiteheads to pay for the over-budget work at the Pereiras’ home.
Dr Stephen Pereira (left) and his wife Dr Preeti Pereira (right) enlisted a top architect to design a high-end refurbishment of their south London home. They are suing their architect for allegedly ‘secretly’ using their money to put in a granny flat at his own home
According to documents filed at the High Court, the Pereiras enlisted Simon Whitehead Architects Ltd to provide architectural services and contract administration on the ‘major’ works at their home, which they bought in 2005 for nearly £2million. The property is now valued online at more than £5million.
The work was to include a new kitchen extension, extensive internal works to the house and a huge basement, featuring a bar, cinema and dressing room, and which was to extend to the entire footprint of their home, planning documents revealed.
But the couple claims that throughout the course of the project, the contractor who did the work was also instructed to carry out works at properties owned by the Whiteheads and their company.
It included general maintenance at their home in East Dulwich and an extension, new roof, doors and a bungalow ‘granny annexe’ at their home in Chainhurst, near Tonbridge, Kent.
The Pereiras say that at the same time that the work on their home was suffering ‘severe time and cost overruns,’ their architect was pushing the builder to complete his own personal projects on time.
They say they were told that the builder was suffering cashflow problems and were ‘advised’ by their architect to make up front payments to allow the work to be progressed.
But their lawyers claim that Mr Whitehead and his company had not told the Pereiras that ‘the reason for the contractor’s cashflow difficulty was wholly or partially as a result of the Whitehead projects, which were being undertaken without payment.’
The Pereiras enlisted Simon Whitehead Architects Ltd to provide architectural services and contract administration on the ‘major’ works at their home (pictured), which they bought in 2005 for nearly £2million
The expected completion date for their own build had been the end of March 2020, but the works eventually ended in April 2021, having cost a total of more than £3.2million, the couple says.
The Pereiras claim they have since learned from the builder that the architect had ‘directed him to, effectively, misdirect the payments the claimants were making for the project in order to finance the Whitehead projects.’
There was also evidence of the builder’s tender being inflated on the instruction of the architect and some aspects of the work on their home being wrongfully charged, they claim.
‘Mr and Mrs Whitehead have been positively enriched by receiving the benefit of the goods and services supplied in connection with the Whitehead projects and/or negatively enriched by not having had to make payment – in a timely manner and/or at all – for the costs of labour and material,’ say the Pereiras’ lawyers in their particulars of claim.
They say that the actions of the Whiteheads and their company – of which both are shareholders but Mr Whitehead is sole director – ultimately cost them about £1.5million in overcharged work, costs overrun, other fees and the up front payments.
But the Whiteheads and their company deny all of the claims, which their barrister Imran Benson describes in their defence as ‘scandalous, misconceived and inadequately pleaded allegations of serious wrongdoing.’
‘This appears to be part of a plan to try and intimidate the defendants and to inflame the litigation,’ he says.
‘There was no nefarious scheme between the defendants and the contractor to rip-off the claimants.
‘There was no plot to trick the claimants into paying the contractor for work done on the defendants’ personal properties.’
The millionaire medics are now suing Simon Whitehead, (pictured) his company and his solicitor wife Victoria, claiming the project only overran because the pair used the Pereiras’ builder to do work on their own home
The barrister said the cost of the project only increased because of ‘expensive and luxurious’ changes to the Pereiras’ original plan and that it was the independent builder’s fault that the build overran.
He said the true story was that the builder’s management of the Pereiras’ project had become ‘increasingly disorganised.’
He had told them he needed money up front to move the project forward and they had agreed to pay, but he had failed to get the work back on track.
Although the builder had done work on the Whiteheads’ properties at the same time, he had used a different team of workers, with very little overlap, said the barrister.
‘He later, to deflect attention from his own failures on the Pereiras’ project, said the delays were because he was focusing resources on the Whiteheads’ work,’ he continued.
‘This was untrue.’
Mr Benson said the builder has since disappeared – ‘whereabouts unknown’ – and, upset, the Pereiras are now bringing the claim to try to force their architect and his wife to pay for half the cost of their build.
‘In bringing this claim, they have advanced a number of absurd and incorrect allegations of the utmost seriousness which, if true, would ruin the practice of the company and the professional careers of Mr Whitehead, a registered architect, and Mrs Whitehead, a solicitor,’ he said.
‘The true cause of the costs exceeding the initial contract is because of expensive and luxurious variations to the specification required by the claimants, which were approved by them.
‘The cause of the delay was the inadequate management by the contractor and the effect of the pandemic.’
The couple claims that throughout the course of the project, the contractor who did the work was also instructed to carry out works at properties owned by the Whiteheads and their company. It included general maintenance at their home in East Dulwich and an extension, new roof, doors and a bungalow ‘granny annexe’ at their home in Chainhurst (pictured), near Tonbridge, Kent
The Pereiras appeared to be claiming that the Whiteheads and their company had instructed the builder to do their work with the intention that it would be ‘dishonestly funded’ by the Pereiras, he said.
‘This is a scandalous allegation against regulated professionals who had no incentive to throw away their careers and good names, acquired over many years, for the sake of gaining an advantage on a particular project,’ he said.
‘There was no dishonesty and no deliberate wrongdoing. The problems were the fault of the contractor.’
He said the Whiteheads had paid for all the work done at their home – costing over £300,000 – with their own money.
Mr Whitehead, 47, launched his central London and Kent-based architect’s practice nearly 20 years ago and his work has been featured in the magazine accompaniment to hit TV show Grand Designs.
Dr Stephen Pereira, 60, is an Oxford-educated psychiatrist and cognitive behavioural therapist, while his wife Preeti, 60, is also a medical doctor, with a specialism in epidemiology and who also volunteers in the health charity sector.