Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

City's court appeal sours leaky house victory

David Strickland is worried about the ongoing legal costs. Photo / Paul Estcourt
David Strickland is worried about the ongoing legal costs. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Auckland Council is taking a Kaukapakapa couple to the High Court after it was found liable to pay $515,000 compensation for a leaking house.

David and Karen Strickland sued the council, builder and others in the Weathertight Homes Tribunal. The house in question was built 11 years ago on a rural block at 51 Downer Access Rd north of Auckland.

They won, but David Heaney, QC, the council's lawyer, has appealed, leaving Mr Strickland worried how they will pay for their defence when the case hits court next year.

"We're on the bones of our arse. So far, it's cost us $200,000 [and] the cracks here are getting bigger," he said, describing numerous problems with the house, which the couple bought in 2006.

Council claims manager Sally Grey said that the appeal was necessary.

"Auckland Council and its insurer have appealed the tribunal decision to the High Court on eight grounds of fact and law.

This type of litigation is complex and appeals can help clarify areas of law, including for future claims."

The tribunal heard how the house had serious structural defects which the Stricklands said would be resolved only by demolishing and rebuilding for $892,200.

The house is built of aerated concrete blocks, has macrocarpa lintels which have sagged, lacks control joints and has roofing defects, yet a building report which the Stricklands read before buying flagged only minor issues and said the house was in generally good condition.

Andre Gaensicke was the builder, project manager and original owner and the tribunal said the council was entitled to recover $309,000 from him.

Mr Gaensicke was "a relatively inexperienced builder building his own home", the tribunal said, criticising the council for signing the place off and allowing deviations from consented plans.

In its defence, the council said it acted prudently and reasonably in inspecting and issuing consent, making 10 inspections.

When the Stricklands found the house leaked, they used sealant around windows, cracks and joinery and then had the entire house replastered, which the tribunal said went well beyond ongoing maintenance.

- NZ Herald

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