New house ends family's termite nightmare

17:00, Aug 07 2014
termite home
TERMITE TRAUMA: Tobi Lawton and Sarah Lee with their three-year-old twins Blayne, left, and Ari Lawton.

For every one bad person, there's got to be 5000 who are good.

These simple but sincere words come from Te Aroha's Sarah Lee, who is still absorbing the shock of receiving a brand new home - free.

In their sun-soaked TV-room, silhouetted hand-drawn portraits of Lee's family of five hang on the wall alongside images of the extended dark horse of the family - termites.

Upon closer inspection, the silhouettes are made up of tiny words - the names of more than 5000 donors who gave money towards the home.

"For me it was really important to say thank you to everyone, it's a reminder that we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for these people."

In March, Lee, her partner Tobi Lawton and their three boys, Ari, Blayne and Dylan, were facing bankruptcy.


The home they bought with their life savings in December was riddled with termites and would have to be demolished.

As a last resort, they appealed to TV3's Campbell Live and were overwhelmed with donations from the public, who contributed about $200,000 to a new home for the family through the Give A Little website.

GJ Gardner Homes' Hamilton/Waikato division built the family a brand new three-bedroom house and carried out the entire project management.

The family moved in last week, and were surprised with masses of furniture and whiteware to deck out their new dwelling.

"I can't thank everybody enough for their generosity. What they have done has not just built a future for us but for our children."

The pair had confessed fears for their childrens safety in March, when the pair walked Waikato Times through the crumbling home.

They had taken precautions to get a building report as part of a clause of their purchase and sale agreement.

This was provided by the vendor and showed nothing untoward.

When Lawton crawled under the house, he discovered termite damage was rife.

Panic set in when the couple approached the real estate company and the bank but, bar a helpful real estate agent, no one would seemed to care their house was crumbling.

"You kind of think karma will look after you if you look after others, but the truth is there are people out there who ripping people off," Lee said.

Having not been able to afford a legal battle, the couple are still paying the mortgage on their original, termite-ridden home.

While they camped out in the lounge to escape their shaky bedroom, the couple thought they would have to uproot their family from their cherished community to stay with Lee's mother.

Lee said the family have gone from "feeling like it's always raining," to waking up in a sturdy, strong house with the view they adore.

Lawton said the most surreal thing is that the new, safe house is on the same site as their last one, which was in danger of caving in on them.

"We're looking out, and having the same view from the old house is pretty unreal."

Waikato Times