The wife of world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury’s promoter is locked in a £1.2m court fight with builders, after the couple’s lavish million-pound extension was derailed by bats in the attic.
Susan Warren is being sued by a building firm after allegedly refusing to settle a bill for an extension to the Grade-II listed mansion at their eight-acre country estate in Hertfordshire.
The former Vogue model is married to Frank Warren, the co-promoter of two-time world heavyweight champion Fury. The British boxer known as The Gypsy King has been involved in some of the world’s richest fights including a $41million knockout victory over Dillian Whyte at Wembley in April and his famous trilogy battle with Deante Wilder, which netted the 33-year-old in excess of $60million.
A team of builders was enlisted in 2017 and 2018 to create a modern glass-walled extension to the east side of the couple’s 16th century main house, with a single storey above ground and a basement, as well as works to renovate and modify the existing house.
But Mrs Warren fell out with the boss of the company managing the build, Caudle Developments Ltd, after work on the mansion stopped for six months over issues caused by protected bats living in the attic of their historic house.
Dan Caudle, director of Caudle Developments, eventually told his team to down tools, claiming Mrs Warren had failed to keep up with payments following the bat delay and the couple enlisted another building company to finish the project, with each side blaming the other for the problems.
Now the building company is suing Mrs Warren claiming around £1.2m compensation for lost profit, unpaid bills and loss of business.
Mrs Warren denies owing the builders anything, claiming the £900,000 they were paid before walking out more than covers the value of the work they did.
She is countersuing for £400,000 to cover what it cost to get the project finished.
The house, which was originally built in the 16th century with later alterations, has a traditional exposed timber frame with mullioned casement windows and is surrounded by eight acres of formal gardens and meadows, plus a large swimming pool.
In 2015, Mrs Warren had plans approved for a modern glass-walled extension to the side of the house, along with other improvements.
The couple knew they had bats - a protected species - living in their attic at the time and had a dedicated “bat house” pre-built as part of their plans, for the rare flying mammals to be moved into to prevent them being disturbed.
But after enlisting Mr Caudle’s company to do the rest of the works at a contract price of £1,052,680 plus VAT, the bats halted the build in October 2017 after four months, when it was discovered that neither Mrs Warren nor the builders had obtained the special licence from Natural England which was required to move the bats to their new home.
By the time the licence was acquired, the bats were hibernating and could not be disturbed and no work affecting the roof was carried out between October 2017 and April 2018.
The work then restarted for six months until the falling out, when Mrs Warren became disgruntled with how long the works were taking after the bat delay, and Mr Caudle complained that his payments were not up to date.
Mr Caudle told his workers to down tools on 22 October 2018 and another firm was subsequently enlisted to finish the project.
Now both sides are suing, with each claiming the other side broke the contract they signed agreeing the terms of the build.
Mrs Warren is claiming the builders went over what would have been a reasonable time for them to finish the project.
But Richard Sage, for Caudle Developments Ltd, told the judge that the absence of a licence to move the bats had caused a “fundamental problem” for the builders and a huge delay, for which he blames Mrs Warren.
“In order to move the bats from the property, it was necessary to obtain a licence from Natural England. No licence had been applied for. Until the licence was in place, there was no further work that the claimant could realistically carry out,” he said.
“Accordingly, on 11 October 2017, the claimant pulled his men off the site and work was paused.
“The bat licence was obtained in mid-November 2017. At this point, the claimant was prepared to return to site to carry out the works to the roof so that the bats could be removed. Unfortunately, by this time the temperature had fallen such that the bats were - or were likely to be - in hibernation. Thus, the works could not continue.
“Ultimately, because of the time it took for the bats to stop hibernating, the works were in fact suspended between 11 October 2017 and 9 April 2018.
“The defendant is responsible for this suspension, as she ought to have applied for the licence.
“Prior to the claimant starting work, the defendant had notified the claimant that the bats were going to be moved into the bat house in September 2017.
“Unfortunately, when it came to move the bats, it transpired that this was not possible,” he added.
David Brynmore Thomas QC, for Mrs Warren, however told the judge, “there is a dispute between the parties as to the legitimacy of the (bat) suspension.”
He said that Mrs Warren insists that “there were tasks not on a critical path affected by the bats that could have been proceeded with over the winter 17/18” and that the couple were within their rights to take umbrage later that the builders were “behind with progress to the works”.
The barrister denied that Mrs Warren was in the wrong when she did not pay an invoice for £105,285.99 on October 22 2018, leading to the walkout.
“That invoice was premature as it was not - based on a monthly schedule - due to be issued for another eight days, 30 October 2018,” the barrister said, adding that Mrs Warren had justified “reservations...about the progress of the works”.
“The claimant was behind with progress to the works,” he continued.
“The claimant issued a further invoice on 22 October 2018.
“The claimant then demobilized from site on 22 October, indicating that it would not remobilize until the defendant had paid.
“The court will have to decide if the claimant was entitled to demobilize from site on 22 October 2018. The defendant’s case is that the defendant was not entitled to do so.
“By November 2018, the claimant had not returned to site and had plainly repudiated the building contract.
“It was the claimant that repudiated the contract by demobilizing as it did and by purporting to terminate the contract accepting a repudiatory breach of contract when there was no such breach on the defendant’s part,” the barrister said.
Mr Sage, for the builders, however denied the works were behind, claiming the six-month bat delay was Mrs Warren’s fault, and should be taken into account.
“What is a reasonable time for completion is a matter of fact,” he said.
“However...It would also be subject to increase if the works were delayed by matters beyond the control of the claimant such as the problem with the bats.”
He went on to tell the judge that the question of “which party was responsible for obtaining the bat licence” is “a key issue in this dispute”.
“It was an implied term that the defendant would use all due diligence to obtain in respect of the works the necessary consents or approvals required by statute or statutory instrument, and that this included obtaining any licence / permission required to remove bats from the roof of the property: This is denied by the defence,” he added.
The hearing continues.