Homeowner's fight leads to law review

BROOKE GARDINER
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2012
Barry Small, of Te Anau, outside his Lockwood house on the Te Anau-Manapouri highway.
BARRY HARCOURT/Fairfax NZ

STILL FIGHTING: Barry Small, of Te Anau, outside his Lockwood house on the Te Anau-Manapouri highway.

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Te Anau man Barry Small is hoping new building legislation will prevent other would-be new homeowners being left out of pocket following the failure of a home building franchise.

The news came in a letter from Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson which said the Government was on the verge of passing new rules to offer additional protection to people signing contracts with builders and home-building companies.

"It may not help me but at least it's encouraging other people won't have to go through what I've been through," Mr Small said.

The Southland Times first reported on Mr Small's five-year-long battle to have his Lockwood house completed to a level of compliance, after Lockwood franchisee Odin Construction failed, in June.

Mr Small claimed to be up to $200,000 out of pocket and is facing a $1.1 million defamation suit brought by Lockwood Homes NZ.

Concerned about the risk of more people being affected in the future, Mr Small pursued a legal battle with Odin and kept Invercargill MP Eric Roy informed of his progress.

"Someone had to do something and I was in the fortunate position where I could do something. If I had a loan or a family I wouldn't have been able to afford it.

"The little guy can make a difference," he said.

Yesterday, just two weeks after delivering copies of stories that ran in The Southland Times and comments posted on the Stuff website by concerned readers to the offices of Bill English and Eric Roy, Mr Small received a response letter addressed to Mr Roy from Mr Williamson.

"It's good to have another person telling me I'm doing the right thing," Mr Small said.

The ministry is reviewing the Construction Contracts Act 2002, with a view to extending its application in the residential construction area and making adjudication a more efficient resolution option for people with disputes, Mr Williamson said.

"This review, once completed, will support the wider set of Building Act 2004 reforms by helping to ensure the accountabilities of different parties can be practically managed and enforced.

"I am confident these improvements will raise standards and will encourage competent practitioners to remain in the industry," he said.

While he doubted it would help him sort his battle, Mr Small said he was buoyed by the possibility others would not find themselves in his situation in the future.

Of particular interest to Mr Small were changes mooted by the Building Amendment Bill (4) which is before Parliament. If passed, changes would see additional consumer protection and remedy measures introduced.

These include mandatory written contracts for all work over $20,000 and a requirement that any defects are fixed within 12 months. New regulations following on from the amendment are likely to include disclosure of the type of guarantee a practitioner possesses.

"If I can play a part in accelerating this process then it's all worthwhile," Mr Small said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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