Homeowners told to fix house or move out

By Sam Boyer

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A local family has been told they have just two weeks to fix their leaky home or else be forced to move out.

Ohauiti resident Christine Radford said her family yesterday had a notice from Tauranga City Council stuck to their door saying they had two weeks left to fix or replace five walls in their 10-year-old home or they would be forced to leave.

They were given two options: To install temporary internal bracing support on five different walls in two weeks, or begin permanent repairs. She said they had been told that failure to vacate the house in two weeks would result in a $200,000 fine.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Construction began on the house in 2001, with builders using untreated timber for framing with harditex nailed to it and a stucco finish.

And while the house was built to industry standards at the time, by 2004, when it was due for its final sign-off, building regulations were updated and it did not qualify for Department of Building and Housing approval.

They thought they could overcome the problem by seeking a determination through the Department of Building and Housing, which only served to realise their worst nightmare. When the department sent an engineer to carry out a full assessment, cladding was removed to reveal that more than half of the house's untreated timber framing had been rotting for years.

Ms Radford said she doubted they could even find an available engineer at this time of year.

"It's quite serious and pretty desperate right now. It's been a really long, stressful experience really.

Ms Radford, a primary teacher, and physiotherapist husband Martin Roberts have two teenage boys, aged 13 and 16, who have grown up in the Ohauiti home.

"You try to prepare the kids for the fact that they might lose their home," she said.

The family is resigned to moving in with Ms Radford's mother in Tauranga while their house is repaired either temporarily, permanently, or even demolished.

Ms Radford said either option would likely stack $300,000 on top of their $150,000 mortgage and mean they might have to move in with relatives for a long time.

"If it looks cheaper to demolish it and start again, that's what we may have to do. We are both 52, and you just don't want a mortgage like that at this time in your life.

"My husband worked late nights and weekends ... Really, we put everything into it," Ms Radford said. "Like a lot of Kiwis, it's your sole investment, and we are just average New Zealanders."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said consideration needed to be given to health risks in leaky homes and other dangers posed by poor structural integrity.

Mr Crosby said cases such as the couple's were rare in Tauranga.

"It's a sad occurrence, but unfortunately the council had no choice."

The family have applied for help under the new leaky-homes financial assistance package, which grants Government and council money equivalent to up to a total of 50 per cent of repair costs in return for homeowners promising not to sue their local council for its role in approving their dwellings.

with APN

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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