I know that the Government’s recent announcement on a funding package to support the resolution of this country’s leaky homes nightmare won’t please everyone.
Local authorities had until 31 May 2010 to sign up to the Government’s offer to fund repairs (25% government/25% councils/50% home owners), so it will be interesting to see how many elect to do so. I suspect only those councils with the greatest exposure are likely to, while the others will take their chances.
There is still a lot of water to pass under the bridge on how this will operate, but there are already some pundits saying that it is unfair the home owner has to pay 50%.
Well, the home owner may not have to as they are still free to sue the remaining parties. It is just that the Government or council can no longer be joined in any proceedings if they select the 25%/25% package.
While not everyone will be happy with the offer I, for one, think the Government should be congratulated for facing up to the issue and putting dollars on the table at a time when our national coffers are hardly overflowing.
At Registered Master Builders we intend to get fully behind this initiative and do everything we can to make it a success. We always felt that a funding mechanism would be found and that was out of our control.
However, we are very interested in the implementation side of the ledger, and that is something we can have some influence on.
By implementation I mean actually undertaking the remedial work. We have only one chance to fix these homes so we must do it right. We do not want to over-repair (and cost all involved unnecessary money), but we also do not want to under-repair and be back in the same position in five years’ time fixing the fix-ups.
The other issue, and the elephant in the room, is the joint and several liabilities that attach to the work. We do not want a situation where the money is available, the remedial work is detailed but there are no builders and subbies prepared to fix the homes for fear of reprisals.
Now I am not saying builders shouldn’t be accountable for their work — far from it. But there is certainly a feeling of once bitten twice shy, particularly when there are many stories of remedial work failing and the whole sorry merry-go-round of litigation starting again.
I can foresee capability/capacity in the sector as an issue. Within the next two years we will see the licensed building practitioner scheme up and running (limiting who can undertake restricted building work), potentially healthier new building consent numbers as the economy recovers (fingers crossed), and fewer graduating apprentices due to the recent downturn.
For your average LBP the risks will be so much lower undertaking “conventional work”, so we could end up in a situation where we do not have enough builders to fix the leaky homes. We simply cannot have that.
So we intend to establish a sector-wide group to nut through these issues to develop options and solutions. It really is over to the sector to respond to what the Government has put on the table, and we must grab the batten and run with it.
If we don’t take ownership of these sorts of issues, Governments have no option but to step in — and we don’t want that if we can avoid it.