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Years of leaks in Housing NZ apartment make it uninhabitable

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  • CJ
    Leaky apartment nightmare could cost owners $20m
    4:00AM Monday Jul 27, 2009
    By Anne Gibson

    Defects at the huge Hobson Gardens apartment block in Auckland could cost up to $20 million to fix, making it one of the country's most expensive leaky blocks.

    Residents facing the repair bill for the two-tower, 97-unit block in Hobson St are rallying to bring a massive law suit against those involved in putting up their apartments.

    "The estimated $14.5 million repair work figure was determined by a professional quantity surveying company but it is not a definitive cost, and tender costs could reach $20 million," body corporate minutes informed residents.

    So they engaged Mark Williams, of leaky building consultants Prendos, and specialist lawyers Matt Josephson and Peri Hoskins, of Grimshaw & Co, to take on their battle.

    The owners say they will have to spend about $1 million by the time their case reaches the High Court at Auckland and a further $1 million if it goes to a full four-month hearing.

    Mainzeal Construction, which put up the block, and architects Archimedia, which designed it, are two of the residents' targets, with the Auckland City Council, for issuing code compliance certificates stating the building complied with the law when it was finished about 12 years ago.

    Peter Gomm, Mainzeal's chief executive, said his firm had held discussions with Hobson Gardens' owners, but the scope of the repair had not yet been ascertained.

    "We take the issues very responsibly and we're trying to get it sorted. We're trying to keep it at a very professional relationship," Mr Gomm said.

    Apartment owners initially considered calling Mainzeal back to the site to fix the block, but decided the risk was too high.

    Residents at a body corporate meeting said, "A question was asked if Mainzeal could be requested to provide a tender for the work.

    "However this was considered as unwise. Mainzeal took shortcuts during the original construction and there was no certainty they would not do the same thing during remedials."

    Paul Grimshaw, Grimshaw & Co partner, said the case was certainly one of New Zealand's largest. "The proceedings are directed towards the key parties involved in the construction of Hobson Gardens - the builder, architect, council and project manager.

    "The law in this area is clear. All these parties owe duties to the owners to ensure the apartments are constructed in accordance with due care and skill so as to comply with the provisions of the Building Code."

    Proceedings have also been issued against project managers Carson Group. Asian developer New Bay, which later became First Concept, is no longer trading but is named in the action. Mr Hoskins said the company had not taken active steps to maintain itself on the Companies Office register.

    The claim relates mainly to water penetration through the cladding.

    A four-month court action has been allocated but no date yet set. The case is expected to be heard next year unless settlement is reached, although Mr Hoskins said no mediation dates had been set and he believed the case would go to court.

    The twin-tower cladding has to be removed and a new, waterproof, system installed, he said. Expansion and contraction of roofing materials because of changes in temperature meant this had to be fixed, and all windows had to be removed from the blocks and replaced.

    * Major leaky cases:

    Farnham Terraces, Parnell: $15 million to repair.

    Nautilus, Orewa: Could be up to $19 million to fix.

    Sacramento, Botany Downs: Claimed $19.2 million.

    Hobson Gardens, Hobson St: Up to $20 million.


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  • Years of leaks in Housing NZ apartment make it uninhabitable

    Years of leaks in Housing NZ apartment make it uninhabitable

    4:00AM Monday Jul 27, 2009
    By Anne Gibson
    Leaks at Hobson Gardens are so bad that unit 8E has been deemed uninhabitable until the entire twin-block tower is fixed. Photo / Kenny Rodger

    Leaky buildings

    Housing New Zealand has stopped tenanting a leaky unit in the defective Hobson Gardens.
    Leaks are so bad that unit 8E is deemed uninhabitable until the entire twin-block tower is fixed.
    One resident said the unit had been empty for some years because the state organisation couldn't tenant it due to health and safety issues. Water ingress is so serious that the state has been forced to temporarily condemn its own place.
    The owners' committee was spurred on to take action to get the huge block fixed when it realised the seriousness of problems with one of two apartments Housing NZ Corporation has in the block.
    "Some owners wanted to stick their heads in the sand and ignore this, until Housing NZ's rep poked his head above the parapet and said that if we didn't act as a body corporate to fix the block, they'd take action against us. And you know how deep the state's pockets are," said one worried resident.
    Of the 97 apartments in the block which straddles a site between Hobson St and Nelson St near Spaghetti Junction, owners said it was only the Housing NZ Corp unit which could not be tenanted. Water is sucked in through defective cladding at the massive block.
    Pools of moisture gather in the middle of the unit, a resident said.
    "Essentially water pools in the middle of one of the rooms because there's a slope on the floor and it runs down into that," he said.
    The state authority houses thousands of New Zealanders and owns 69,000 residential properties.
    A corporation spokeswoman said that because the state had so many places, it was inevitable some would suffer problems.
    "We can be as much a victim of these things as anyone else," she said.
    A single unit in such a large twin-block complex could not be fixed without repairs being carried out to the entire complex, she said.
    Housing New Zealand owns 2 of the apartments. The complex has been identified with weathertightness issues and all owners have to follow the body corporate processes.
    Denise Fink, Housing NZ's Auckland regional manager, said her organisation supported the approach taken by the body corporate to pursue legal action so all owners could get a resolution.
    "Housing NZ owns just under 70,000 properties and fortunately we have a very small number of homes that face issues with weathertightness.
    "It is difficult to say how much rent Housing NZ is losing by not tenanting the property."