An Auckland man fears his elderly father will lose his unit in a leaky North Shore apartment complex because he can't afford to contribute to a $14.5 million repair bill.

Iain Swan, whose family owns a unit in the defective 63-unit Bay Palms at Browns Bay, said they cannot afford their $222,363.89 bill and that his 86-year-old father could no longer live there due to stress.

The vast majority of residents voted at a Body Corporate meeting last month in favour of a proposal to repair the roof, at an estimated cost of $14.5 million.

Swan, a builder who has worked on many Auckland leaky building repair jobs for some years, says the place could be fixed for much less than $14.5m, or owners could add a further two levels of units to the block and sell those to raise money for the fix-up.
"This is potentially a life-threatening situation due to stress," Swan said.

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On May 16, the Swans got the bill for the repairs due for payment on February 1, which they cannot afford to pay.

Swan said neither he nor his brother Peter can borrow it because banks demand a construction contract schedule before they loan the money, he said. Yet that contract would not be drawn up until owners paid the levy, leaving him trapped.

"It's an impossible position to be put in," said Swan, who is worried the body corporate would sell his family's unit when the bill isn't paid.

Swan said his family unit was once estimated to be worth about $850,000 but doesn't believe it would sell for anywhere near that amount.

A Barfoot & Thompson attempt to auction the unit a few weeks ago drew not a single bid, Swan said. Hopes of around $500,000 were dashed when after the auction, one person indicated a sum well below $400,000, Swan said.

Iain Swan whose family have a Bay Palms apartment. Photo/Michael Craig
Iain Swan whose family have a Bay Palms apartment. Photo/Michael Craig

Swan wanted Bay Palms to be expanded from 63 to 120 units, owners paying to build an extra two apartment levels because the site can now take more density due to planning changes.

But the majority of residents rejected that suggestion and instead decided to fix the existing 63 units.

The apartments are at 30 Bute Rd and 27 Inverness Rd.

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David Bentham, another unit owner and body corporate committee member, raised concerns at last month's meeting, asking for "preliminary investigation on the viability of adding an extra storey to the existing complex and report back within four weeks", the minutes said.

Scott Cracknell of architects Context had looked at various options and told the meeting "adding another story to the building would require much higher costs up front and the feedback from owners is that they are already being asked to pay more than they can afford".

Some owners would never agree with the proposals, the minutes said.

Tim Rainey, a lawyer representing the body corporate, told the Herald that decisions relating to remedial work were made with the overwhelming support of most owners.

"Under the Unit Titles Act the owners have no option but to carry out the extensive weathertightness repairs required to the units and common areas. The owners committee have worked with their consultants to ensure that the most cost effective remedial solution has been found ... all of the owners in Bay Palms appreciates how difficult it will be for some to pay for those repairs (they are all paying for repairs on the same basis after all) but there is no other choice," Rainey said.

Rainey also said the concept of redeveloping the site was considered and rejected by the owners

"Such a proposal would require the support of 75 per cent of owners to get underway and at the indication from owners at the last meeting was that it would not get support from more than one or two owners at most. It would also require unit owners to pay more money."