Decade of leaky checks


Govt report says every home built in past 10 years at risk.

Thousands of Wakatipu homes built in the last 10 years could be rotting from the inside out – despite officially meeting building standards.

Homes, buildings and alterations undertaken between 1998 and 2008 that have been issued a Code Compliance Certificate may not be safe from the leaky homes syndrome.

That’s because the vetting process might not have been done properly.

A Department of Building & Housing report has found the regulatory agents for Queenstown Lakes District Council – CivicCorp and latterly Lakes Environmental – didn’t properly inspect weathertightness standards on buildings constructed within that period.

And according to LE figures, it means about 11,000 consents granted for buildings and alterations – including 4300 new houses – could be at risk.

The government department’s report findings have shocked national leaky homes crusader John Gray, who’s slammed the oversights as “corporate sloppiness and grossly negligent”.

Auckland-based Gray chairs the Home Owners & Buyers Associat­ion of New Zealand (HOBANZ).

He warns: “Homeowners in the Wakatipu ought to be quite concerned at the fact that [CivicCorp and] Lakes Environmental have demonstrated a scant disregard for the setting and maintenance of building standards in the region and would be right to have concerns about the long-term performance and durability of their homes.”

The 2008 report is a “technical review” of QLDC’s building control operations via contractors CivicCorp and LE, carried out between November 2004 and December 2007.

It found “the council was not always complying with statutory obligations such as … ensuring building work complied with the Building Code at all stages of the consent processing and inspection process”.

CivicCorp, a privately-owned company, managed building and resource consents from 1998 till 2007, when QLDC-owned LE took over.

The DBH discovered CivicCorp didn’t have any “formal procedures for processing or inspecting weathertightness compliance”.

“It was also found that weathertightness processing was not be­­­­­ing properly considered, and building officers were approving applications that did not have adequate details on weathertightness.”

The DBH was concerned about the lack of competent staff to check that buildings were up to standard, and recommended extra training.

It also dished out a raft of other recommendations – including making building officers spend more time on inspections – but “a number of the recommendations from the initial review had not been implemented” till the DBH checked again in 2007.

However, QLDC’s since satisfied the DBH that LE has developed “comprehensive checklists and procedures”, plus testing competency levels of staff, the report says.

But Gray says it’s an “outrage” there could be thousands of buildings being “non-compliant and potentially defective and dangerous”.

“Home buyers need to be even more careful and should not assume that a house that has been issued a Code Compliance Certificate by LE [or CivicCorp] is actually compliant.”

A Code Compliance is an official seal of approval after building work is completed.

Gray says LE has a “moral duty” to homeowners and ratepayers to audit all the certificates issued in the last 10 years.

“They must also move to ensure that there will not be widespread failures of buildings in the region.”


Don’t leave it too late

A new Queenstown firm thinks it has the answer to protecting peoples’ biggest asset from a leaky homes disaster.
Technical consulting firm Envirotest is introducing home inspection tests for people worried about weathertightness issues.

Under the government’s Weathertight Homes Resolution Service, homeowners must lodge claims within 10 years of construction or lose their rights to sue.

And following the Department of Building & Housing’s report finding defects in CivicCorp’s and Lakes

Environmental’s leaky-home checking regime, Envirotest director Chris Davis (above) says it’s now even more important to know if a house is at risk.

It doesn’t have to be monolithic cladding – the material commonly linked with leaky homes issues: “If you’ve got a weatherboard house or a concrete house, there’s no guarantee that that’s not at risk of leaky homes either.

“Even if it’s just a simple check to make sure nothing’s going to happen down the track. Because the longer you leave it the more expensive it’s going to be.”


Leaky … or not?


5 Woodlands Close

According to Official Information from the Department of Building & Housing, homeowners Matthew and Terri Fynch face weathertightness repairs of about $55,000 on their property built in 2001.

Terri Fynch won’t comment on the latest DBH revelations because they’ve recently reached a verbal agreement with the builder as to who takes responsibility.



Blue Peaks

Bosses of Blue Peaks apartments are currently spending a “substantial amount” of money to avoid a potential leaky homes disaster, manager Michael McMillan confirms.

Balconies on the multi-level complex aren’t draining the water away fast enough, so new “floating tiles” – without grouting – are being installed so water isn’t held for long periods, and won’t seep through the structure.




The Point

Work on “rotting” Wensley Developments’ The Point has just finished and each of the 24 apartments has been handed back to owners. Builder Russell Lund’s company undertook the massive task of repairing more than $2 million worth of structural damage to the Frankton Road complex caused by what he describes as “classic leaky homes syndrome”.

Apartment owners are taking Wensley Developments and Queenstown Lakes District Council to court over the matter.




The Glebe

The Glebe’s ongoing repairs to balustrades have “nothing to do with” leaky homes syndrome, says body corporate chair Alastair Stark. The fibreglass cappings on the balustrades are currently being replaced with Coloursteel fittings. “It should never have been done the way it was,” Stark says.

Costs are being shared by apartment owners, builders, Wensley Developments and the Earthquake Commission.