The struggle for truth and justice over a leaky town house has snatched years from a couple seeking a happy retirement.
Bert and Mary Blincoe are speaking out in the hope other leaky home owners don't face the same bitter fight.
"At one stage I thought it would kill us," Bert says.
This summer is the first time in six years the Blincoes and eight others in the Broadwood complex in Forrest Hill escaped the stress of their battles. The Blincoes are happy just to have a home but it's snatched all their savings and caused years of hard work and stress.
Lingering bitterness remains about the compensation process, the council and the construction company that didn't pay up. The Weathertight Homes Tribunal process is touted as a "fast, flexible and cost effective" way of resolving leaky home disputes.
But Bert says it doesn't work that way.
"It's not a fair and just process. They actually make it extremely difficult and arduous for owners. It's run for lawyers who profit from the system."
Broadwood complex residents should have been celebrating after the $1.95 million payout ordered by the Weathertight Homes Tribunal in 2011.
But to their frustration Auckland Council appealed, dragging the process out another nine months. The High Court finally ruled in the residents' favour last year. Hughes & Tuke Construction was ordered to pay $834,630 by the tribunal in 2011 to five owners but went into liquidation shortly after the decision.
The Auckland Council is now set to pick up the full $1.95m compensation bill. Former Hughes & Tuke Construction director David Tuke is actively involved in the commercial construction industry. Mr Tuke, who is listed as the Hughes & Tuke Group managing director, could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts since January.
The tribunal did not find him personally liable for the leaky home problems.
But big ethical questions surround the responsibilities of companies over leaky homes, despite what the Companies Act legally allows them to do, New Zealand Homeowners and Buyers Association chief executive Roger Levie says.
Legislation isn't working but resolving Companies Act problems would be a lengthy and complex process, Mr Levie says. He thinks an overhaul of the tribunal process is a quicker solution.People need to be able to represent themselves and adjudicators need more power to stop people creating delays, Mr Levie says.
The homeowners and buyers association helped the Broadwood complex owners, including Mr Blincoe who headed the residents' committee. Mr Levie says their experience of the process is typical. Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson says tribunal claims are often complex and involve significant compensation claims.
"The time required to progress these claims to a hearing can vary, as the tribunal needs to ensure that all parties are well informed and all parties have sufficient time to be properly prepared."
The financial assistance package available to homeowners is another option that requires minimal involvement from lawyers, he says. The council says any decisions to settle or go to trial are in the hands of its insurer.
North Shore Times