Fix for leaky home to cost nearly $250k

Multiple failures in the building of a leaky Wānaka home over a decade ago, and a failed repair job in 2019, will cost nearly $250,000 to fix.

A Weathertight Homes Tribunal decision has split liability for those failures between five parties, which include, unusually, the homeowners and claimants.

In his decision, tribunal adjudicator Kevin Kilgour said problems with the Peninsula Bay home became apparent in 2012 — the year after co-claimant Andrew Wilton moved in with his wife and children — with cracking in the plaster and paint finish of the external cladding.

Leaks were first noticed inside in 2013, and eventually found on three sides of the house.

However, despite Mr Wilton’s efforts to hurry things along, it was not until 2019 that the cladding and paint supplier, Hempel (Wattyl) New Zealand Ltd, attempted repairs.

Those repairs failed, and the Wiltons, along with a third member of the family trust that owns the house, lodged a leaky home claim in 2020.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment report for the tribunal found the exterior wall cladding had been inadequately installed in 2010.

Mr Kilgour said a peculiarity of the claim, which was the subject of a five-day hearing in Queenstown in May, was Mr Wilton was "wearing two hats" during the home’s construction.

As well as being the home’s co-owner, the experienced structural engineer had done its engineering design.

Also unusually, he had asked his friend of some years, Wānaka builder Dean Fluit, to build the house without a written contract, something the tribunal considered "extraordinary" given both men were experienced building practitioners.

The tribunal found the cladding installer, Tony Hardaker, failed to install the Wattyl product according to its specifications, using the wrong adhesive and attaching the panels to wet masonry in cold temperatures.

After Mr Fluit had prematurely installed some of the windows, Mr Hardaker should have insisted on having the windows removed so he could properly waterproof the concrete block frames, Mr Kilgour said.

Mr Fluit’s "multiple failures and omissions" included his failure to read the cladding’s specifications and not properly overseeing Mr Hardaker’s work.

He also should have warned Mr Wilton about the potential consequences for weathertightness as a result of the latter not specifying cladding "control joints" in his engineering design.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council had been negligent for failing to identify defects in the cladding’s installation, and the departure from the product’s and building consent’s specifications, Mr Kilgour said.

Aspects of the home’s design, given its situation in a high-wind zone, should have signalled to the council to take special care in the consent application process for possible weathertightness issues.

The tribunal found Hempel (Wattyl) NZ’s quality assurance system lacking in several ways: its specifications for installing the cladding were not fit for purpose, it did not provide training for its cladding applicators and employees who made site inspections during the build failed to notice any defects.

The company’s attempted repair job in 2019 was carried out without first seeking an opinion on the cause of the leaks.

Mr Kilgour assessed Mr Fluit and Mr Hardaker’s liability at 20% each, and Hempel and the council’s at 15% each. However, Hempel’s full liability increased to 40% after accounting for its failed repair work.

Finally, as the informal project manager at different stages during the build, Mr Wilton’s "critical project management decisions" made him contributorily negligent, and his liability, through his company Wilton Joubert, was assessed as 5%, or about $13,000.

The tribunal considered a repair proposal by Mr Fluit to be the most suitable, which had an estimated cost of $243,040.

The claimants were awarded that sum for the remedial work, plus $15,000 for general damages, with a 5% reduction of the total for their share of liability.

Hempel is ordered to pay the claimants $108,216, Mr Fluit and Mr Hardaker must each pay $51,608, and the council $38,706.