Home owner's dreams in tatters

AFTERMATH: Lyndon Denton and his mother, Coral Denton, with the remains of his demolished Waimea Rd home.
AFTERMATH: Lyndon Denton and his mother, Coral Denton, with the remains of his demolished Waimea Rd home.

Nelson MP Nick Smith says the demolition of a leaky Nelson home is a wake-up call for the region's builders, real estate agents, and house buyers.

Lyndon Denton's 16-year-old two-storey home on a Waimea Rd hillside was pulled down this week. He says he and his bank decided he couldn't meet the estimated $150,000 repair bill to bring it up to standard.

Developer Marcus Ryan, who also built the house next door, blames inadequate completion and home maintenance.

Dr Smith, who has been working with Mr Denton, 40, and his mother Coral for three months trying to retrieve the situation, said the case "buries the myth that leaky homes are just an Auckland problem". He said he had dealt with more than a dozen cases, and believed the problem was being understated "because neither councils, homeowners nor builders want publicity".

"Homeowners need to be aware . . . and be diligent in their checks. No family should have to go through what the Dentons have gone through."

Mr Denton - an unmarried construction worker - bought the stucco house in 2002, borrowing more than $100,000 after saving his deposit. He used a lawyer for his conveyancing and thought all the paperwork was correct.

The Nelson Mail understands that last year, when the neighbouring house was going to be put up for sale, it was discovered that neither property had a code compliance certificate, the document issued by a local authority when building code requirements are met. The owners of the neighbouring property have not been available for comment.

Mr Denton sought a certificate, and that's where the nightmare began. The Nelson City Council identified numerous problems and declined to issue a certificate. It eventually sent him a notice to fix, which mentioned a potential $200,000 fine if it was not acted on. Because a certificate was not obtained, the council says it has no responsibility to help, and the 10-year legal deadline for a civil claim against it has passed.

Mr Denton said an independent building consultancy estimated that the repairs would cost $150,000. This was far more than he could come up with, and he decided, along with his bank, to demolish the house.

He was left with "a bit of concrete and a retaining wall" - a small, empty section with a concrete slab on it to show where his three-bedroom house was. He's not sure if the sale of his section will clear his mortgage, or if he can avoid bankruptcy.

Dr Smith said he had tried in vain to get Mr Ryan to take responsibility and to help. In spite of a bankruptcy and a conviction for building without a consent, both dating to the late 1990s-early 2000s, Mr Ryan was trading as Bendigo Developments and had applied to become a licensed building practitioner.

Dr Smith has strong views about that. "I have written to the Licensed Building Practitioner Board highlighting this case and urging that he not be licensed."

He provided a copy of a Department of Building and Housing report issued on March 19 this year, supporting the council's decision not to issue compliance certificates, and stating that both houses breached the building code in many respects and should be issued with notices to fix.

Mr Ryan claimed that any problems Mr Denton and his neighbour faced could be sheeted home to the lack of maintenance on their properties over the past 16 years, and non-complying work done after he sold the two properties.

This had been out of his control, he said. He had used contractors to build both houses, but could not recall their names.

It was common during the 1990s for builders to sell unfinished properties so the owners could complete the work themselves. This was the case with both houses, so he had not been responsible for seeking the compliance certificates, he said.

"These houses were taken through to the stage of contract - then it was up to the owners. In both cases, the owners had a lot of work to do before they could achieve that code of compliance."

He said he was only drawn into the situation after everything had been decided. He thought it was "crazy" to demolish Mr Denton's house.

The Nelson Mail