Leaky homes: ‘If you can't afford to pay for it, then tough luck’
Radio New Zealand
Phil Pennington, Reporter
20 September 2017
have told RNZ that body corporates do not have the level of experience
necessary to deal with multimillion dollar repair projects.
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
"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.
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
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
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.
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