Leaky home nightmare for Christchurch woman

Jeannie Murtagh, whose faulty house cladding has caused $150,000 of repairs on her home. She's part of a $100 million ...
Dean Kozanic

Jeannie Murtagh, whose faulty house cladding has caused $150,000 of repairs on her home. She's part of a $100 million leaky homes class action.

Jeannie Murtagh bought her apartment new 15 years ago.

She thought her architecturally designed, "practical, maintenance-free place" was a sure bet: "That's what I was going for."

The dream started to unravel five years ago when her neighbour first discovered a leak.

Jeannie Murtagh
Dean Kozanic

Jeannie Murtagh

When builders came to investigate, they discovered the drip was only the tip of a much larger iceberg. Design faults and poor-quality materials meant Murtagh's home, and her neighbours' properties, had been rotting from the inside out for the past 10 years.

Repairing her New Brighton home will cost more than $145,000.

While other neighbours pursued a lawsuit against the companies responsible, Murtagh opted to take the Government's Financial Assistance Package, which pays half the cost of repairs.

After two years of waiting on builders, she fears the costs may have increased significantly on the original estimate of $145,000, and covering half of the sum seems increasingly difficult.

As well as the financial cost, Murtagh says the stress has taken an enormous personal toll, leaving her with stomach ulcers and stress-related illness.

"I'm a different person to who I was five years ago. I'm much more negative... It's more than the monetary thing. It's your whole life and that's the huge cost."

Murtagh is one of hundreds of Kiwi building owners joining a new leaky homes class action against manufacturers of allegedly faulty cladding.

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The claim, launched by Adina Thorn Lawyers, aims to claw back some money for affected homeowners.

The saga is believed to have resulted in costs of more than $11 billion to repair or replace leaky buildings constructed between 1994 and 2005, and most of the costs have been shouldered by the buildings' owners.

More than 400 have already signed up for the class action, registering from Australia and Britain as well as New Zealand.

Principal Adina Thorn said the firm expected the level of the final damages claim to be at least $100 million, "but this figure could rise significantly".

She decided to pursue the claim after being approached by a number of customers, who owned buildingswith Polystyrene cladding.

Building owners signing up for the action do not face legal costs, which will be covered by a litigation funder.

If successful, owners will receive a portion of the settlement after the costs and funders' share are deducted.

Thorn said owners of buildings of any age could join the action.

 - The Press


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