Woman thrilled after leaky home appeal dropped

Wednesday 28 February 2007, 7:29PM
By Sam Farrow


Colleen Dicks can hardly believe a council insurer has dropped an appeal against paying $250,000 court-ordered compensation for her leaky home, her daughter says.

In 1994 Waitakere City Council building inspectors approved the way Mrs Dicks' Hobsonville home was built.

This was despite the fact the builder had failed to instal seals around windows, allowing water to run behind aluminium joinery and rot the wooden frame of the house.

RiskPool, the council's public liability provider, had appealed a High Court order in December for it to pay 69-year-old Mrs Dicks $250,900 over her uninhabitable house.

The company today announced it was dropping the appeal.

Mrs Dicks' daughter, Sandra Dyer, said today her mother was "absolutely thrilled and delighted" at the news.

"I think the word might be `unreal'. She can't believe it.

"It's taken all day to comprehend it and she's still not there."

Ms Dyer told NZPA her mother needed time to figure out how she would use the compensation money, but was grateful to be in a position where she had options.

The decision was good news for all owners of leaky homes, she added.

"It'll give them a bit of faith and hope in the old system -- we've actually managed to pull through and we didn't think we were going to."

RiskPool chairman Michael Ross said although the High Court decision would stand, it left a number of issues unresolved which the insurer would pursue in a future case.

"On balance we felt we'd be best to choose another set of circumstances that would best support the issues we wanted to address."

He said the High Court decision found the builder was 80 percent liable for the shoddy construction of the house, while the council's liability was 20 percent.

But the builder, Robert McDonald, has put his company in liquidation, so the council was being asked to pay all the costs, Mr Ross said.

"Clearly it's in our interests to recover as much as we can from the builder, and we will be doing that."

He said central government also needed to accept some responsibility for the leaky homes crisis, which could cost ratepayers billions of dollars.

"Leaky building syndrome was a systemic failure...Central government were responsible to the extent that they, through the Building Industry Association, approved new building processes and materials and also conducted audits of council processes."

He said in Colleen Dicks' case, for example, the Waitakere City Council inspection processes had been audited shortly before the consent was issued on her home.