Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Leaky Homes Issues And "Stiched Up" Migrants

One of the most common problems that migrants from developed countries encounter in New Zealand is the relatively poor condition of its houses. Almost all construction in NZ is of the wooden framed design (even those with a brick exterior) and it ranges from quaint old Kauri villas to brand new million dollar mansions. There are often problems associated with dampness, poor weather tightness ('leaky building') lack of adequate heating and poor insulation. New Zealand has rapidly gained a worldwide bad rep for shonky houses some of which may cost an unwary householder hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs, with little or no help either from the government or building companies and certifiers. See Telegraph UK article :  Owners of leaky homes in New Zealand struggle to pay for repairs-

"Owners of leaky houses in New Zealand are struggling to fund repairs to their rotting homes as controversy over the government's proposal to deal with the problem grows...

For those considering buying property in New Zealand, Glenn Slaughter, an estate agent in the country had some advice. "Any property that a purchaser is considering buying in New Zealand should be made subject to getting a building check from an approved building company," he said.
"They can also provide a moisture reading to make sure that the property is not above the acceptable level."He gave warning that many people had bought properties in haste, especially at auction, only to find out that they had purchased a leaky home.

"Some properties are able to be repaired but some have had to be pulled down. Unlike Britain, most New Zealand homes (even brick) are built over a timber framing. If moisture gets into this framing of the house it may be too late to repair and this is when the building itself becomes worthless," he said."Weather conditions and building practices are very different to the UK, and permanent material homes may be not be as permanent as English folk would expect."

If you are thinking about purchasing a property in New Zealand be sure to have a full and proper inspection carried out and make it a condition of the sale that the report be satisfactory. Do not, under any circumstances, take the selling agent's advice not to have one done and do NOT use someone that they recommend.

Unfortunately many migrants are unaware of the massive extent of the leaky building disaster in New Zealand, even though it has been very much in the news for the last few years. A recent estimate is that it would cost the country $11.5 billion dollars to repair all its leaky homes, that's approximately 10% of the country's GDP. Don't let a significant chunk of it come out of your pocket!

If you are emigrating to NZ and want to do some reading about this before you part with your cash take a look at reports here and look at devastating effects that it is having on the lives of so many people. This is the story of one British family who emigrated from Britain eight years ago and was recently published in the New Zealand Herald -by Anne Gibson:
"Wilna White and her family are migrants who became leaky-building victims.

After a nine-year struggle which is yet to end, she wants to warn other migrants of the dangers of buying a New Zealand house.

Paul and Wilna White lived in the English village of Barton-le-Clay outside Luton and worked in London, arriving here in December 2001.

The family loved Auckland's beaches and bought a house at Whangaparaoa. They dealt with a licensed real estate agent.

Soon after buying, they discovered severe weather-tightness issues and the rot was so bad that a child fell part-way through an exterior deck.

The couple have fought for eight years to get compensation, claiming $475,000 in a Weathertight Homes Tribunal case. But earlier this year, they got just $173,000 and have appealed the decision.The tribunal awarded the Whites $121,000 from Lorelle Kerkin as the sole trustee of an estate that sold them the house at 6 Castaway Place, and $52,000 from Rodney District Council, which signed it off.

Mrs White said the past eight years had been a nightmare. She has been robbed of annual holidays because dealing with the leaky-house issue has taken up all her spare time.

Mrs White warned that migrants were in danger of being tricked."
So has much changed for incoming migrants since the Whites arrived eight years ago? it would seem not, immigrants are still being seen as naive or easy targets and "stitched up" accordingly (also by Anne Gibson):
"Immigrants are being saddled with leaky homes, unwittingly buying into our national disaster, says a Remuera real estate agent.

Steve Koerber of Barfoot & Thompson has pointed the finger at vendors and other real estate agents, saying there is a lack of information about houses.

John Gray of the Homeowners and Buyers Association agreed that some agents were reluctant to let potential buyers know of weather-tightness issues, but an agency boss has rejected criticism.

Bryan Thomson, Harcourts chief executive, said agents were upfront if they were made aware of leaks. But not all vendors told agents about leak issues, he said.

Mr Koerber said migrants were particularly at risk because so many were unaware of the dangers of buying a New Zealand house. "I have a big problem with the fact that hundreds of new immigrants and some locals are literally stitched up into potentially leaky or actually leaky homes. Their eyes are wide shut and some owners and agents are genuinely relieved to find them," Mr Koerber said."
For more information on weather tightness including what to look for when purchasing a property

see 'Information for homeowners' on the Department of Building and Housing's web site.

See other posts on this issue here: Leaky homes

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