When Lesley Thomas and George Griffiths bought their 8-year old house near Ashhurst, it was supposed to be a peaceful retreat. Three months after purchase, it's anything but.

"We just had water everywhere, through the front door, leaking through the hall into the bathroom, through every window, through the roof," says Lesley.

"It was unbelievable to see what we had realistically purchased," adds George with a deep sigh.

Their house sits high in the Ruahine Ranges away from people and their problems, and that suited the couple after the tragic death of George's son.

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"Being up high gave you some sort of sense of not understanding, but peace," says George.

"And we thought if we could have that peace all the time that would be great. In reality what we have is even more trauma that is soul destroying."

This is one of the windiest parts of the country. NZ's first wind farm is further along the ridge and any house here needs to be specially built for the elements.

So before they purchased, the couple went to extraordinary lengths to get the house thoroughly checked.

"We spoke to the lawyer and he said don't worry about getting a builders' report, but we decided we wanted to get a builders' report because we wanted to be really sure about what we were purchasing.

"We also spoke to the council. We actually spoke to the person who had done the Code of Compliance and he told us we had nothing to worry about because the Code of Compliance was the council's 10-year guarantee," says Lesley.

Despite reassurances from their lawyer and the council, they decided to play it safe, and pay for a building inspector to come and check it out.

Naturally, when they discovered the problems, George went back to the building inspector.

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"When questioned about it, he said he relies on the council doing their job properly."

Lesley and George then contacted the designers and were dismayed to learn that their house is quite different from the plans.

Rob Partington whose company designed the house, pointed out differences to what was specified in the consented plan: the lack of a waterproof membrane around the front entry, smaller roof flashings, different sized windows, different cladding and lack of a rigid air barrier underneath.

Mr Partington stated: "There is no question that the changes have caused a failure in the building's ability to meet Building Code requirements, primarily the change to the cladding."

The builder of the house was also the owner who lived here for four years before selling to Lesley and George. He's now retired and won't comment publicly but he defended his work, saying it met all the standards for a Code Compliance Certificate and he sold it in good faith.

So what about the council who issued that Code Compliance Certificate?

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Manawatu District Council and the Mayor, Helen Worboys, refused to comment. According to Lesley and George, when they contacted the council they were told it was council policy not to comment and the couple would have to take it to court.

Their only option seems to be a costly legal battle, or a big bill to fix what was supposed to be their dream home.

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