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While it’s unclear how many other homes may have been built with the unconsented product evidence submitted to the Building Practitioners Board suggests it could be up to 60.
The board has now found Christchurch-based builder Scott Lilly guilty of negligence and fined him $3000 after a complaint was made by the Selwyn District Council.
According to a recently released decision Lilly substituted consented roofing material on a new house he was building for a product that he imported himself from China and had left over after building a shed on another property.
There was no evidence that the Chinese product met New Zealand Building Code standards.
The council issued a Code of Compliance for the house without knowing the MetalCraft product had been substituted with material from the Zibo Wangshun Building Materials Company and the house was sold.
The purchaser of the house noticed a deterioration in the roof’s paint and made a complaint about it which is what lead to a closer inspection by the council into the actual roofing product that was used.
Lilly didn’t respond to requests for comment by NZME but when initially confronted about the issue by the Selwyn District Council he claimed a roofer had both supplied and installed the product and all the roof needed was a repaint.
He later admitted that his company had supplied the product but claimed that it met NZ Building Code requirements.
He provided correspondence that he claimed supported that the Waimakariri District Council had assessed the product and said it was up to scratch.
However, the board said the evidence Lilly supplied didn’t support his claim and it appeared the roofing iron’s thickness hadn’t been tested - meaning it didn’t meet code.
“Looking at the Zibo Wangshun product, it is not CodeMarked, and there was no evidence that an appraisal had been carried out and accepted by the Building Consent Agency at the time it was used,” the board said in its decision.
“It should also be noted that the burden of proving that a product meets Building Code requirements sits with the person who seeks to use it. As such, there was no basis on which the Zibo Wangshun product could be considered a comparable product.”
“The decision to substitute the roofing product was calculated and, on the face of it, appears to have been done to save money,” the board said.
“…The respondent’s failure was not inadvertence or carelessness. The conduct was deliberate, and it reached the threshold for the Board to impose a disciplinary sanction.”
The board went on to say that Lilly’s attitude towards the consenting process was “reckless and dangerous” and went beyond negligence, putting the purpose of the Building Act at risk.
“The respondent initially denied that he had supplied the roofing product. His approach to the matter was to deal with it as a commercial dispute. He focused on Consumer Guarantees Act rights and remedies and submitted that a repaint would suffice.
“The respondent does not appear to have appreciated the impact of his conduct on those that have purchased the homes.”
This is the second time Lilly has been before the board after he was found guilty in 2015 of similarly violating the consenting process and fined $2000.
The decision noted that a number of other homes may have had their roofing substituted using the same Chinese product and a spreadsheet of possible locations was provided to the board.
Lilly said it was used on “some current (at the time) houses being built” but he didn’t give a definitive number of homes and said he wasn’t using the material any longer due to shipping costs.
“The properties where the substituted product was used were then sold. The purchasers would have believed they were purchasing a home with a MetalCraft roof that met Building Code requirements backed by product guarantees issued in New Zealand,” the board said in its decision.
“That was not the case. Rather, they have purchased homes that have unconsented building work, a roofing product that may not meet compliance requirements, and no reassurance that they are covered by comprehensive guarantees in the event of a product failure.”
Selwyn District Council’s building manager, Vanessa Mitchell, said that consents were issued to Lilly’s company New Style Homes for 60 new builds. Consents were issued under the proviso they would be constructed using Metalcraft roofing.
“At the moment, we have only been approached by one home owner, where it has been established that the roofing iron was substituted with an alternative product to what was specified in the approved building consent,” Mitchell said.
“We proceeded with a joint complaint together with the building owner to the LPB board as this was an effective way to raise the concern with the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.”
Mitchell said no Code of Compliance certificates had been revoked by the council and they were not progressing a further investigation as they lacked evidence to demonstrate non-compliance.
“Deciding if there was a breach would require taking samples of the roofing iron from the roof of each house for testing, which would be invasive and destructive to the roof,” she said.
“From our observations and further detail provided in the board’s decision document we have no reason to believe that the alternative product installed will not meet the durability requirements of the Building Code. The coating failure identified is essentially a cosmetic issue rather than a weather tightness issue.”
Mitchell encouraged any home owner with concerns about their roof installed by Lilly’s company to contact them directly under the terms of their building contract and roofing warranty. In the second instance, they should contact the council directly.
By Jeremy Wilkinson
Open Justice multimedia journalist