More than 10 years ago, Milton Pedley and his wife Jean bought a property on Te Arakura Rd in Feilding, believing the million-dollar home was their perfect retirement solution.
After farming in Opiki for 67 years, the Pedleys wanted a home they could simply walk into.
Before purchasing, Milton Pedley visited the Manawatu District Council to check the property had its Code Compliance Certificate (CCC). They found one hadn't been issued for improvements done on the home a year prior.
Because of this, the Pedleys decided against the purchase. A short time later, they were approached by the land agent.
"Miraculously a [code compliance] was signed off at 8.23am on 8 March, 2007. So, we thought 'oh well, we're pretty safe, we can buy it – it complies'."
However, after just seven weeks of moving in, an odious smell began seeping through the home and a piano fell through their concrete floor.
"The smell, the stench, was unbelievable and, on further investigation, we found the house did not comply with the CCC."
The Manawatu District Council doesn't dispute the Pedleys' account but has declined to respond to any allegations. But more on that later.
Jean's brother agreed to visit the property and found a trap door. After prising this open, they discovered the home underneath was completely white.
"It looked like snow – there was just water sitting on top of the ground. We didn't go any further because of the smell."
Pedley and his brother-in-law found the vents under the house had been plastered over, making the floors rot.
After four weeks, Pedley met with Manawatu District Council officers who advised him he would need to take court action.
"I was introduced to a guy who specialised in leaky homes – I said, it's not a leaky home. It's the fault of the council. It should never, ever, ever have given a CCC."
A claim was filed against the Manawatu District Council in December 2008 and mediation then took place in August 2009 in the Wellington High Court.
"This was supposed to be the first hearing but this changed to mediation and ran from 10am to 8pm. At 10pm we were told mediation had failed."
The pair had stayed in the city the night before, despite being told by their lawyer not to appear.
"We already had the hotel booked. So, when mediation failed, we were to leave the High Court in Wellington. We came back to the hotel and this is the first time I think I've ever seen my wife cry."
'We were screwed from day one'
"I was absolutely disgusted. We were just screwed from day one but we didn't realise that," he said.
The Pedleys had vacated the property by this time and were desperate to get their home back, but couldn't because remedial work was being undertaken to fix the problems.
"We were locked out for nine months. Even though we owned the place, we weren't allowed in unless the builders were here."
The Pedleys were then summoned to Wellington on March 6, 2011 to sign a discontinue notice or pay $60,000.
The couple didn't have $60,000 in the bank and felt forced to sign the notice that the house was finished, Pedley said.
The Pedleys moved back into their home on March 14, 2011.
"The first thing we noticed was water on the floor.
"There were no tiles and the house was not finished – we found all sorts of trouble. I immediately set to work engaging subcontractors to complete the job."
Pedley said he estimated legal and remedial costs have consumed more than $2 million.
'They never thought we'd live this long'
"I'm sure the Manawatu District Council never thought we'd live this long and I'm sure they thought age was against us and we would die and their troubles would go away. But it hasn't.
"My daughter was staying and called out to me at 4.30am, asking why the is the paper falling off the wall.
"She got on a chair, put her hand up and it went right through the [wall] board."
Rain had been allowed to flow directly into the home via the roof for seven years.
"On this occasion, I did not go near the Manawatu District Council. I decided I'd fix the bloody house myself."
The Pedleys finally finished work on their home in October, 2017.
After his epic and expensive ordeal, Mr Pedley feels entitled to his opinion on where the Manawatu District Council has got things wrong.
"The problem is that [the] council can employ a member of the public, they don't have to be registered, to sign a house off.
"I believe the council should employ a building inspector that's registered."
In response, the Manawatu District Council stated it was surprised the Pedleys had spoken about their ordeal.
"All issues relating to 5 Te Arakura Rd are resolved. We are simply not in a position to comment any more than that," said a spokesperson.
Four Code Compliance Certificates challenged
In response to an Official Information Act request, the Manawatu District Council stated four CCCs had been challenged by homeowners in the past 10 years, with three progressing to court.
The council could not provide a figure on the amount spent defending these claims.
Lesley Thomas and George Griffiths are one couple currently challenging compliance certificate issued for their Pohangina Valley home.
They believe the property should never have been issued the certificate – and they would never have purchased the property without one.
"We just want what we purchased – what the plans stated," Griffiths said. "We also want other people to know the CCC is worth absolutely nothing.
"We actually spoke to the person who issued the CCC and he told us we had nothing to worry about because the CCC was [the] council's 10-year guarantee."
Like the Pedleys, Manawatu District Council advised them to take their concerns through the court process.
"The council think that it's not for us to keep talking to them … they think we should just take them to court. I don't know how they think we are going to do that … we don't have the money for that."
Pedley warned the couple to be cautious.
"The courts, as far as I'm concerned, I'd never waste my time with them again."
After all they have been through, Mrs Pedley is now asking other homeowners with similar issues to leave them to seek the peace they thought they were buying into with their Te Arakura Rd house.
"I've had enough. I don't want to pick up other people's problems. We've had people contact us and Milton's tried to help them.
"Milton and I have become a bit angry with the attitude of local council because they think they're God almighty and you're just nobody from nowhere.
"I feel saddened for many young people who work hard to strive to get a home and then find the local authority has let them down."