Couple facing $350,000-plus repair bill cannot go to tribunal because property is too old.

Wellington couple Sharon and Kevin Leigh, facing a $350,000-plus bill to fix their rotting house, have joined the new $100 million-plus leaky home class action.

"It has just ruined us," Sharon Leigh said.

"Our property is a beautiful home with a beautiful view and we don't want to move. My health is extremely bad. I take pain relief medication every day due to stress. I'm a chronic asthmatic and we've been told by builders and consultants that I should not be living in the house because of the black rot and mold. But where do we go? It's gut wrenching."

Construction of the 293sq m house, clad in James Hardie's Harditex monolithic material, was started in 1992 but only finished in 2001 due to a house-builder's collapse, she said.


The couple bought the house in 2006, not knowing of any problems and with a clean pre-purchase inspection report.

They discovered issues in February 2013 when re-carpeting and they saw a skirting board bulging.

"We've removed internal walling and flooring from a spare bedroom on the middle level of the three-storey house. That has serious damage including holes in the particle board floor. There is no flashing on the Harditex exterior cladding so where the joins are, there's sunlight coming straight through and rain penetrates that gap inside our house," she said.

"The framing is completely rotted and in some parts there is no framing because it's completely rotted out. There's nothing there."

The couple cannot sue in the High Court because they don't have the money and nor can they go to the Weathertight Homes Tribunal because the final sign-off for the house was in 2001, more than 10 years ago, making it ineligible for the state mediation and arbitration scheme.

Gay Johnson of Castor Bay has spent $600,000 fixing her place. She has also joined the action and is in much the same position as the Leighs: her house was built in 1995 so was well outside the 10-year timeframe.

Adina Thorn wants more owners to join her suit. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Adina Thorn wants more owners to join her suit. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Auckland lawyer Adina Thorn wants owners of plaster-clad buildings to join her action which has now passed the $100 million threshold. She said that was the cost of repair claims, including one $10 million-plus Auckland apartment block repair.

In a separate case, Jim Farmer, QC, is awaiting a Court of Appeal decision in the action involving Carter Holt Harvey and 880 leaky Ministry of Education school buildings.


Meanwhile, action against James Hardie and CSR resulted in confidential settlements being reached with both those businesses, Farmer said.

Thorn said her action came after approaches from owners of buildings constructed using Harditex, Monotek, Titan board and various different polystyrene claddings.

She refuses to say who the action is against.

Registration is enabling her to assess the scale of the claim and gather expert evidence for the case. By late last week, about 400 people had registered their interest, with most claims about $200,000.

James Hardie in Sydney, which made Harditex, Monotek and Titan board, would not comment.

Thorn said an international business was funding the action but Paul Grimshaw, of Auckland law firm Grimshaw & Co, which acts for about 6000 leaky-home owners, said that if it succeeded, people overseas stood to benefit financially.

Thorn said she had spent the past two years working on the case and she hopes to be able to announce the next step soon.

What caused leaky buildings?

• First comprehensive report released 2002.

• Hunn report commissioned by Building Industry Authority.

• That found a "systemic failure" across the building industry.

• Leaky building victims now want to band together.

• $100m-plus class action announced this month.