Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Leaky homes: Just two pay-outs

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Only two leaky home claims have been settled in the first seven months of the Government's financial assistance package due to a lack of expertise, Labour says.

But the Department of Building and Housing says the roughly 1200 active claims are taking time because homeowners are waiting to make the right decision.

Under the financial assistance scheme, launched last July, the Government and local councils will pay for up to half the costs of repairing leaky homes, with homeowners themselves funding the other half.

To qualify, claims must be lodged within 10 years of the completion of building work.

The Government has set aside $1 billion over five years to pay for the scheme, with the total cost expected to top $11b.

Some 3500 existing or new leaky home claimants, or 76 per cent of all claimants, have indicated they would like to pursue the financial assistance package, a parliamentary select committee was told today.

Department of Building and Housing deputy chief executive Maria Robertson said just under 1200 claims were active, with 320 claimants qualifying for contributions from both the Government and local councils, and 304 qualifying for a Government-only contribution.

The claims were worth more than $100 million, with $48m of Government-funded repairs and $19m of council-funded repairs so far approved.

But figures provided to the select committee by the department show only two claims have been successfully settled to date.

Labour housing spokeswoman Annette King told APNZ the Department of Building and Housing lacked expertise and trained staff, and had to pay out millions to contractors to try to get the process working.

"Part of the problem is they just haven't got up to speed, they haven't got the money, and they haven't had the expertise to be able to undertake some of this," she said.

"It's not like this is a new problem - you would have thought that many people would have come to them with the issues, and to process only two does sound like a very small number in seven months.

"I don't know how many they expect to do in a year. But obviously they have not developed the expertise to undertake it."

Ms Robertson told the committee claimants were not getting stuck in the claims process.

"At any given time in our system, 75 per cent of all claims are with a claimant, waiting for them to make a decision on their next steps, so it's not that they haven't met the criteria yet - there's a number that are still in the assessment process," she said.

"One of the things that is very difficult for people in these situations is that they are dealing with a very emotional situation that no one wants to find themselves in.

"It takes time for them to work through their options and determine a pathway that's going to be best for them and their families, and enable them to get on with their lives."

Ms Robertson said the department was always looking at processes to make sure they were not exacerbating claimants' stress.

Department chief executive Katrina Bach said people had a range of options before them and for some people, choosing was quite a challenge.

"Once they do choose a financial assistance package and want to go down that route, as many have done, there is quite a detailed process to go through. But at least it's a process that they're guided through, it's structured and they do know that there'll be an end to it."

The department worked actively with each claimant on an individual basis, she said.

- APNZ

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