Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Chen takes stand in Cornwall Park leasehold dispute

The house at 21 Maungakiekie Ave, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
The house at 21 Maungakiekie Ave, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

The High Court at Auckland has just begun to hear arguments from the lawyer for Yong Xin Chen who leased a $2 million-plus property in an exclusive Auckland area.

Jenny Wickes, acting for Chen, told Justice Rebecca Ellis about how her client paid $450,000 for the house at 21 Maungakiekie Ave by Cornwall Park in December 2005.

A translator is assisting Chen, who is in court with her daughter.

Chen told the High Court at Auckland this afternoon that when she bought the Maungakiekie Ave property, she understood she might be able to own the land as well as the house.

The Cornwall Park Trust Board is seeking more than $300,000 from Chen who abandoned the house when her annual ground rent sky-rocketed from $8300 to $73,750.

Chen told of installing a new stove, had the place re-wired and fixed the swimming pool.

She also said she had migrated in 2003 and was a New Zealand resident and citizen, holding a New Zealand passport.

Giving evidence to Justice Rebecca Ellis via an interpreter, Chen said had come here from north eastern China.

Earlier this morning, a sorry list of deterioration to the $2 million-plus Auckland mansion at the heart of the litigation was read out in the High Court at Auckland

Scott Marshall, a building surveyor, prepared a report for the Cornwall Park Trust Board, which is seeking $348,284 from Yong Xin Chen in unpaid leasehold fees, renovation costs and expenses after she handed back the keys to 21 Maungakiekie Ave on November 16, 2011.

Marshall told Justice Rebecca Ellis how the house needed $160,652.70 spent on it after Chen lived there for six years and said she had made significant alterations.

The big old bungalow was not in a fit or proper state of repair to enable the board to tenant it, he said answering questions from John Hannan of DLA Phillips Fox, alongside Matt Casey QC, both for the board.

"There were significant breaches of the lease obligation to keep the property in a good, clean order," Marshall said.

Yesterday, the court heard how a neighbour had complained of mosquitoes from the swimming pool and Marshall gave evidence of deterioration to the pool.

"The swimming pool was in poor condition," he said, also telling of possibly "non-compliant" exterior electrical work to install lights around the outdoor and pool areas. Marshall said a registered electrician was needed to check that work.

The timber supports for a bay window had rotted, along with other timber on the western side of the house, he said. A garage door lock was broken and there were holes in the bungalow's metal roof which let in sunlight, he said, noting damage to insulation and possibly to timber roofing supports. The roof and its flashings were coming to the end of their lives, Marshall said.

Ceilings were damaged and parts needed replacing, due to water coming through the metal roof, he said. A gas stove had been removed from the kitchen, along with a washing machine and there was damage to wall linings.

"All the kitchen surfaces were dirty. All the bathroom surfaces were dirty," he said.
Yet the board had not sought money for that cleaning work, he said, or many other jobs that needed doing.

"The carpets were dirty, damp, stained and had become loose in areas," he said. "There was significant dirt and mould stains on the ceilings," Marshall said.

The case is continuing.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 29 Jul 2014 00:29:23 Processing Time: 228ms