Leaky homes: 'If you can't afford to pay for it, then tough luck'

by Phil Pennington / 21 September, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - leaky

Leaky home owners say the costs of repairs are spiraling out of control. Photo / Getty Images

Leaky home owners are struggling with escalating repair costs that are adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to their debt.

The son of one elderly Auckland owner said authorities needed to urgently step in because open-ended repair bills put all the risk on the owners.

"There is no protection. It will cost what it will cost and if you can't afford to pay for it, then tough luck," Iain Swan said.

His 86-year-old father has moved out of his leaky Bay Palms apartment in Browns Bay, on the North Shore, but Mr Swan said payment demands from the body corporate remained.

"Under the Unit Titles Act the body corp committee are quite able to forcibly sell your apartment."

Mr Swan said the estimated cost of repairs had nearly tripled in three years from $80,000 to $222,000.

"I expect it to increase probably quite substantially from that."

Body corporates did not have enough experience managing multimillion dollar projects, he said.

He recently met his local MP, National's Murray McCully, and told him that the government had created this mess with its lax building rules in the 1990s, and it should offer suspensory loans and officially monitor both the advice that body corporates were getting and the construction work itself, as happened in Canada.

Iain Swan. Photo / supplied

In Manukau, Cheryl Singh - who owns a leaky townhouse - discovered that challenging a body corporate's decision could be expensive.

She refused to pay for repairs at her complex, which she said would have cost almost $500,000 for her unit, double the original estimate. She and another owner took the matter to court, lost and now owe an additional $200,000 in legal fees.

"If we are required to pay this amount, either we pay or they [the body corporate] will simply bankrupt us."

Ms Singh said she had not yet been given adequate reasons for the many cost increases and additions to the repair job, and questioned if the body corporate had enough experience dealing with construction professionals.

In Birkenhead, the estimate to fix the home of Sue Sanderson's father-in-law has tripled over the last three years to $260,000, before work has even started.

She said owners needed to have their say, as part of the body corporate, but the process of dealing with leaky homes lacked transparency and took too long.

While not referring to their own repair job, Mrs Sanderson said some builders were taking advantage of the situation.

"I certainly have seen, on other projects, prices have gone up exponentially."

Leaky home repairs can be a minefield for contractors too, revealing other problems when walls are removed, such as inadequate fire protection. Material and labour shortages are also playing a big part in ballooning repair bills.

Birkenhead's Paul Lochore, whose real estate firm supervises 65 apartment blocks, stressed it was vital to send an experienced building surveyor in first.

He agreed body corporates lacked experience dealing with leaky units, although he said they also operated within strict laws.

And he pointed the finger at local authorities.

"The council's charging like wounded bulls ... The council's the worst, the Auckland Council, there should be a Royal Commission into how they're operating."

He said council paperwork could add $60,000 to $70,000 per unit to a job.

Building surveyor Terry Henshaw said the irony was that leaky home owners who had been let down by the government and councils now had to pay fees and GST to the very same organisations to fix the problem.

"Why are the council profiting again from your misery? Why don't they process these things for nothing?"

He cited the case of 14 owners at a Fairview Heights, North Shore, apartment block who had fought the council for six years, where the cost of repairs had tripled to $3.6 million.

A response has been sought from the Auckland Council.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


How China’s skewed sex ratio is making President Xi’s job a lot harder
81865 2017-10-21 00:00:00Z World

How China’s skewed sex ratio is making President X…

by David Skidmore

As odd as it sounds, China’s economic policy is being held hostage by its heavily skewed sex ratio.

Read more
Allen Curnow: The poet who helped define New Zealand
81753 2017-10-21 00:00:00Z Profiles

Allen Curnow: The poet who helped define New Zeala…

by Sally Blundell

A new literary biography takes the measure of poet Allen Curnow, whose work helped define New Zealand’s voice.

Read more
Does sugar really cause kids' hyperactivity?
81849 2017-10-21 00:00:00Z Health

Does sugar really cause kids' hyperactivity?

by Marc Wilson

Parents blame sugar for causing kids’ hyperactivity, but the evidence suggests it’s not the culprit.

Read more
Minority Rules: Who will be the first voted off Coalition Island?
81921 2017-10-20 15:49:43Z Politics

Minority Rules: Who will be the first voted off Co…

by Jane Clifton

As a reality-TV show full of dramatic challenges, this new Labour-led Government has a lot going for it.

Read more
How to blend your TV into your interior style
81897 2017-10-20 14:13:55Z Technology

How to blend your TV into your interior style

by Noted

Most TVs are a central part of the living areas while at the same time, taking it over. Samsung's Frame TV hangs on the wall like a piece of artwork.

Read more
A play about Tinder, plus more upcoming Auckland theatre
81874 2017-10-20 11:49:18Z What's on

A play about Tinder, plus more upcoming Auckland t…

by India Hendrikse

Your guide to what's on now and later in Auckland

Read more
The decision's been made, what comes next for New Zealand politics?
81839 2017-10-20 06:58:41Z Politics

The decision's been made, what comes next for New …

by Richard Shaw

Expect some questions about how NZ forms governments, an angry National in Opposition and curiosity about political odd couple Ardern and Peters.

Read more
Bill English concedes: 'We all know the rules, we play by them'
81833 2017-10-20 06:15:01Z Politics

Bill English concedes: 'We all know the rules, we …

by RNZ

Mr English, flanked by his wife and senior party colleagues, appeared emotional towards the end of a short press conference accepting the decision.

Read more