The agony of the new-home owners

When New Plymouth couple Lynne and Leon Roborgh were looking for a home in Auckland to retire to, Unit 9, Ponsonby Gardens, appealed as an ideal unit to rent until they could move.

At first they were not worried when an open home was cancelled because water had leaked into the dining room after a downpour. They bought on condition the leak would be repaired.

But in July 1997 came the first sign the roof had not been properly fixed.

Their tenant phoned to say water was pouring through a bedroom light - and he was leaving.

More repairs were done but the leaks continued.

Their new tenant complained of setting the alarm to wake hourly during the night to empty a 10-litre bucket.

Repairs took eight months, with tenants paying 50 per cent rent.

When they visited, the couple were "shocked to see the rotten timber and appalling waste of resources resulting from abysmally poor workmanship, cost- cutting and the council's failure to meet its obligation to the community to maintain standards through inspection.

"The [framing] timber ... looked as if it had burned - a grotesque cancer."

Lynne Roborgh says the toll on the couple was enormous, "not just in financial terms, but the stress, disappointment and frustration".

Leon's health suffered and the retirement savings they worked so hard for dwindled away.

They have never moved in and now live in Wellington.

Dr Elizabeth Berry, retired: "My house was flooding every time it rained. I had to be home when rain was forecast, ready to shift furniture, lift curtains, roll back the carpet and then mop up water as it came in. You never knew when you could go away.

"I was reluctant to have guests stay in the house because of the physical surroundings and the possible health hazards from toxic moulds.

"This leaking building, which was supposed to be my sanctuary, has caused me significant and prolonged pain and suffering. My life ... has effectively been on hold.

Dr Roy Knill

Unit 6 was bought by a trust as a long-term rental investment. Knill, a trustee, was forced to move in to co-ordinate repairs after tenants would no longer stay.

"Initially Taradale came and fixed the problems; we thought we were lucky. Then we found the problems were far more widespread.

"The problems just got bigger and bigger and the solutions bigger and bigger. We had two major sets of building activity in three years.

"Then we had to consider this legal battle for compensation. There were huge amounts of stress."

Mike and Fionna Shepherd

"We are both very busy health professionals, raising twin toddlers. We set out to get a house we wouldn't need to do anything to.

"We experienced ... a grief-like process that included anger, denial and low mood. We agonised about what to do and getting finance together to pay for repairs.

"We endured sleepless nights with tarpaulins flapping, water and wind creating significant noise.

"Our children were unable to play outside for three months and many areas inside the house were unsuitable for children for varying lengths of time.

"We have had a large number of strangers passing in and out of our house, disrupting our lives. We felt like prisoners in our own home."

Roger and Shona McElroy

"There has undoubtedly been damage to our health and peace of mind and to our financial position as retirement nears.

"The stress on us was compounded as we learned more of the leaky home problems and their implications.

"We had ongoing worry over living in a potentially unhealthy home, stress from meetings and negotiations as well as from shifting plants and furniture, moving belongings into storage and living for some months in a temporary situation.

"Repairs took nearly seven months - without curtains, sometimes without windows, with loss of privacy and security from sharing our house with so many tradesmen."

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