For six months, a man lived without paying a cent in a $2.125m rural property overlooking a river.

And when the home owner tried to get the man out - after their sale agreement turned sour - he says he was reduced to sleeping in his office because of rising legal costs.

The dispute centres around John McGettigan's home on the Hibiscus Coast Highway in Waiwera, north of Auckland, which sits on almost 6ha of land and overlooks the river at the end of a winding gravel driveway.

Property at 1243A Hibiscus Coast Highway, Waiwera, at the centre of a legal dispute. Photo: NZ Flatmates.
Property at 1243A Hibiscus Coast Highway, Waiwera, at the centre of a legal dispute. Photo: NZ Flatmates.

McGettigan's four-decade long marriage ended in 2015 and he decided to sell the home, a judgement in the High Court at Auckland said.

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He had been renovating it for six years. The house, which has a $2.125m CV, needed some finishing touches and a code of compliance certificate.

On November 5, 2015 McGettigan agreed to sell the house on an "as is" basis to the Addams Trust Company Limited for $2.5m - with certain conditions.

Addam Buttling is the trust's sole director and shareholder.

Buttling had immediate right to occupy the house in return for $1000 rent a week; the deposit was to be 5 per cent and the settlement date was December 8, 2016.

In turn, McGettigan was required to warrant that, upon settlement and to the best of his knowledge, all work complied with building regulations; were consented for and a code compliance certificate issued.

The court document showed a final council inspection was done - the only thing McGettigan needed to do was file documents and get the certificate.

It also showed Buttling paid rent for one year in a single lump sum upfront, but after the agreed settlement date, did not complete the sale or make further rental payments over the next six months.

View of the deck at the property at 1243A Hibiscus Coast Highway, at the centre of a legal dispute. Photo: NZ Flatmates
View of the deck at the property at 1243A Hibiscus Coast Highway, at the centre of a legal dispute. Photo: NZ Flatmates

The first issue arose when Buttling paid the deposit of $125,000 seven months late, according to the judgment summary.

He then asked for a "price adjustment" for the sale, claiming $500,000 of works was needed.

When McGettigan went to file his final paperwork he found a re-inspection of the property had been ordered without his consent.

The court document showed he tried several times to access the property to address issues but was blocked - once he turned up at a prearranged time to find the gate chained.

John McGettigan agreed to sell his Hibiscus Coast Highway home
John McGettigan agreed to sell his Hibiscus Coast Highway home "as is" after his four-decade marriage ended. Photo / Greg Bowker

On December 7, the day before settlement, Buttling asked for an equitable set-off of $1.344m, citing 14 issues with the house.

Justice Gilbert dismissed this claim and said, when the dispute was heard at the High Court at Auckland on May 25, the items listed did not match those in an Auckland Council notice.

The judgment showed McGettigan agreed to have $120,000 held in trust to resolve any claims, but Buttling did not engage so the sales agreement was cancelled.

Then, with Buttling's rent payments having run dry, the dispute went to court.

Justice Gilbert ruled Buttling's claims had "no arguable defence" and ordered the 38-year-old and his partner to leave the property no later than a week after the decision was delivered.

He said the legal process involved to get his house back caused McGettigan "considerable hardship and distress" and pushed his finances to the point he could no longer afford renting an apartment.

McGettigan told the Herald the legal process had been draining.

"I had reached the end. I had nowhere to go. It was so close to everything gone ... lost."

He acknowledged the house was "unfinished" in the sense he was yet to install a cantilever pool on the outside deck and the landscaping was undeveloped.

McGettigan is living in the house again and contemplating renting it out on Bookabach or AirBnB.

Kitchen and dining room, lined with Italian tiles inside the Waiwera house. Photo: NZflatmates
Kitchen and dining room, lined with Italian tiles inside the Waiwera house. Photo: NZflatmates

"I didn't think I'd be able to live here again," he said.

"It will work out, but I feel there is a grieving process to get through. Some wounds have got to heal."

Meanwhile, Buttling is living in a tin shed on his West Auckland farm, he told the Herald.

He maintained there were issues with the house that could not be resolved in time for settlement.

Buttling said when he first signed the deal he had no concerns - but this changed when he moved in.

He said he had no resources to appeal the court ruling.