Leaky home's $550k repair bill not the worst of it

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 10:25 29/01/2014
Kevin Kevany
WATER WARY: Kevin Kevany hopes his house has seen the last of the leaky building crisis.

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Kevin Kevany never thought the leaky building saga would hit home for him.

The St Johns Park, Auckland, man says his house ended up costing $550,000 in repairs to what was a new $700,000 home.

And he's one of the lucky ones. There are 800 leaky Auckland houses with claims lodged with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Claims need to be made within 10 years of construction.

The Kevanys are from from South Africa and bought their plaster home in early 2003 when there was a sort of "hiatus" in the leaky housing scandal.

They were told by real estate agents that leaky houses was something to watch out for but that they were easy to spot, with flat roofs, no eaves and big decks.

"We looked at this house which is not a typical leaking one and thought it's not a problem. How wrong we were."

The family did try to get a building inspector but there was as six-week wait.

"Despite the stress and strain and how much it cost us in the end, we really were the lucky ones. You never get back what you put in in these cases."

Kevany is a freelance journalist and started researching leaky buildings in 2004 for a book, before realising he was a victim.

He came across designer Ian Holyoake's house testing method, which uses moisture detection probes. Kevany's home was used as an example and had about 100 probes installed.

"It all came about by chance.

"We took photos and didn't think any more about it. When he phoned us two weeks later we just couldn't believe it."

A council inspector confirmed the leaking was primarily coming from a false separation between the first and second floor. The Kevanys were 18 months inside the 10-year claim limit.

After numerous attempts to contact the original builder, a lengthy tribunal process and at least 2000 hours of his time, Kevany's claim was settled last year.

He received $350,000 for damages leaving him with a $200,000 loss.

But the health impact of living in the damp is even more concerning, he says.

He suffered from pneumonia twice during the seven-year battle, his wife was hospitalised with an infection, his daughter had a sinus operation and the family dog died after living in a room where severe stachybotrys mould was found.

"That's one of the huge curses about this thing. There's so many health issues because of it.

"My GP told me ‘For goodness sake, just bail on it. It's costing you years of your life'. The stress just isn't worth it."

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Kevany says he would advise other victims to be wary. Learning as much as you can about leaky homes in advance of any tribunal process is helpful, he says.

"Nothing is waterproof, a rock isn't waterproof. The important part is the way it dries.

"In the tribunal you have no legal representation but you're up against the giant of the council.

"As a ratepayer you're essentially funding it while they're consistently trying to reduce your claim."

An MBIE spokesperson says there are still a large number of homes in New Zealand that are leaking and rotting over time.

A Pricewaterhouse Coopers report in 2009 estimated between 22,000 and 89,000 homes were affected.

Less than 2200 claims have been resolved since the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service was formed in 2002.

- East And Bays Courier

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