Leaky-home owners fight for $15m

By Anne Gibson

A group of 41 Parnell home owners are fighting the country's biggest leaky-building battle, seeking $15 million to fix their units.

Farnham Terrace apartment owners, who live in five rows of terrace-style blocks, are fighting for much more than the courts awarded owners of the once-rotting 153-unit Sacramento complex in Botany Downs.

Sacramento owners sought $15 million and last year won $11 million.

Farnham Terrace would cost $18.7 million to rebuild, the owners say in court documents.

They have just won a 21-month legal battle against Rich List developers to have their court case heard, despite powerful property interests attempting to have their claim struck out via Queen's Counsel Julian Miles.

Resident Robyn Horsfall, who is spearheading the court action, told the Herald issues include cracked cladding, walls built too low and meeting the ground, no flashings on courtyard walls, tiled exterior terraces built higher than interior floors, water pouring into the garage underneath, decayed wood and breaks in the waterproof membrane beneath paths and decks.

The case first went to court in August 2007 but Justice Mark Cooper has just ruled in the High Court at Auckland that the owners can take a claim against Symphony Group, Symphony Projects, Waimarie Management and Glanville Investments.

A string of other defendants are named, including Auckland City Council and Vero Liability Insurance.

Symphony Group's directors include ex-Chase Corporation boss Colin Reynolds, who has an estimated $55 million fortune.

That grew lately after he sold his management company, the NZX-listed ING Property Trust. His sons Adam and Damon are fellow Symphony directors.

Peter Francis, another ex-Chase executive said to be worth $50 million, is a Waimarie Management shareholder.

Grimshaw & Co lawyer Grant Shand worked with Michael Ring, QC, to win the owners' right to have their case heard.

Justice Cooper's decision said Symphony was project manager, building the four-level units above an existing warehouse structure.

Paul Grimshaw, a partner at Grimshaw & Co, is delighted with the win.

"Symphony have now had two attempts to try to strike out this claim. They have been unsuccessful on both attempts, so we now hope they will work with the owners to help them repair their units," he said.

Mr Grimshaw warned homeowners who feared leaky-building syndrome that they had only 10 years after building work finished to issue legal proceedings.

"If they do not, then they cannot recover the repair cost from the council, builder or all the other wrongdoers.

"As well as the 10-year period, proceedings must be issued within six years from when the owners discovered - or ought reasonably to have discovered - the damage," Mr Grimshaw said.

"Symphony argued that the owners knew of the problems more than six years before they issued proceedings because they had received a report that mentioned a few defects to the building.

"The court, at first instance and on appeal, said the fact that the owners knew of a few defects did not mean that the owners knew they had a leaky building, so the limitation clock did not start running."

Mr Grimshaw wants the Government to extend the 10-year period to 15 years.

ROTTEN LIFE

Farnham Terrace apartments:

* $15m leaky building claim.
* Units at 8 Farnham St.
* Off St Georges Bay Rd.
* Mediterranean-style blocks.
* Built throughout 1995.

- NZ Herald

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