Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Hamilton council facing claims over leaky townhouses

The leaky home problem has become costly. Photo / Supplied
The leaky home problem has become costly. Photo / Supplied

Hamilton City Council is at the centre of at least four claims over a leaking townhouse complex in which one owner faced an $81,000 repair bill.

The council has settled a joint claim made through the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service for two of the units at 4a Mill Lane in Hamilton, and faces legal action over two more.

The council would not say how much the settlement cost, but the Herald understands the latest claims, which the council is defending, total more than $800,000.

A former project manager at the site said the claims could have been avoided if the council had enforced recommendations in a report slamming workmanship on the decade-old development.

Andrew Taylor wanted work on the nine-unit development stopped when a report he authorised on the first two townhouses showed evidence of poor construction that would lead to leaking.

But he said his attempts to get the site shut down so points in the Joyce Group report could be addressed, fell on deaf ears at the council in September 2001.

"They asked for it to be done but they didn't enforce it [with the builders]," Mr Taylor said. "We had no authorisation or authority to change things. All we could do was point out what was wrong."

An assessor from the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service said in 2005 the then owner of unit 8 would need to fork out at least $81,000 to fix two leaking bedrooms and bathrooms, a damaged garage wall and rotting timber - but he doubted the repairs would permanently fix the townhouse.

The central city complex was originally designed by renowned Hamilton architect Noel Jessop.

But when construction of units 8 and 9 began in 2000, the original timber frame design had been changed to Cornerstone, a design not often used on houses, with internal gutters and no eaves.

Mr Taylor said the council allowed the builders to substantially change the original consented drawings without all the appropriate checks.

His allegation is backed by Weathertight Homes Resolution Service assessor David Lewis, who reported that "engineering drawings looked vague and the calculations didn't look right and the documentation as a whole seemed to lack construction detail and useful information".

Mr Lewis noted a list of 20 code of compliance certificate issues compiled by Mr Taylor in early October 2001 were not adhered to.

"None of these items seem to have been correctly addressed by the Hamilton City Council, as most of them are the items contributing to the problems," Mr Lewis said.

He added that if several hand-written notes in the rough council documentation relating to some of the problem areas had been followed through and eliminated or rectified at the time of construction, "we would not be in this situation now".

Mr Taylor claims that not only did the council not adequately address the concerns raised in the Joyce Group report, but it went on to issue building consents with the same flawed designs for units 3, 4 and 5.

A former owner of one of the affected properties said the situation had been messy and drawn out, and it had left her out of pocket.

She could not comment further because her settlement was confidential.

Hamilton City Council building control manager Phil Saunders confirmed the council was facing two claims.

But he said he could not comment because it was before the court.

- NZ Herald

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