Department of Building and Housing chief executive Katrina Bach has told Parliament’s social services select committee that leaky building claims to the service could take 15 to 18 years to resolve. “We think 15 to 18 years over time,” Ms Bach says.
“If you keep on tracking on the current trajectory, it’s got a very long tail, this problem, and it’s better to think about some alternative or additional approaches to speed up resolution.” She says the system was not the best way to expedite resolution of claims and it could be improved.
The department estimates up to 15,000 homes could suffer signifi cant leaks, with cost for repairs alone of $1 billion. Meanwhile, 42 owners have sold their leaky homes, despite being in the middle of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service’s (WHRS) resolution process — and one has pocketed the settlement payout without doing the repairs.
The loophole has prompted warnings that buyers should ask direct questions of vendors and estate agents about whether the home has been subject to a claim to the WHRS. Service acting manager Nigel Bickle told the committee it was possible for a leaky building owner to get a settlement payout, not fix the problem, sell the property, and for the new owner to lodge a fresh claim with the service.
He confirmed there was no requirement for settlement payments to be used for repairs. National MP Nick Smith asked whether that gave an indication that rules to require home owners receiving payouts to fix the problem were needed. Mr Bickle replied that was one of the issues identified in a review of the service and its governing legislation that was under way.
However, Leaky Homes Action Group leader John Gray is sure the problem is a lot bigger than the 42 cases cited by the service. He says many people checked the process offered by the service, and saw it was not working.
The other options were to fund repairs themselves or go through the courts. “If they are not in a position to do either of those, their only fallback position is to quietly perhaps give it a lick of paint and try to get rid of it.”
Mr Gray says it is illegal to sell a house without disclosing major defects, and in serious cases it could be classed as fraud.
He says the group wants those getting settlements to be required to spend the money on repairs, except where a house is to be demolished.
He suggests all home buyers should get a pre-purchase inspection. Weathertight Homes Resolution Service claims to November 23:
• Resolved: 471
• Closed: 793
• Remaining: 2581
• In mediation or adjudication: 493.