28 Jul 2014

Mounting legal action over repairs

10:04 am on 28 July 2014

Lawyers in Christchurch are warning of a looming building crisis as legal action against insurers and building companies claiming shoddy repair jobs mounts in the courts.

The High Court's so-called earthquake list shows 222 cases are active of a total of 327 filed.

Insurance litigator Duncan Webb said there was no auditing process so substandard repairs were being passed off as complete.

He said problems in much the work being done around the city were not immediately apparent because they were in foundations.

Southern Response claimant Melanie Tobeck said her West Melton house was given its practical completion certificate without any input or sign-off from either herself or her husband, and given quality assurance documents retrospectively, nine months after the certificate of completion was signed.

Ms Tobeck said she complained to Southern Response and demanded that her case be escalated to its internal disputes resolution process.

The managing director of building contractor Corbel Construction, Craig Jones, said he was not happy with the situation Melanie Toebeck had been left in, but could not comment on specifics.

Mr Jones said the post-quake operating environment has become complicated. A homeowner had traditionally been supported by an architect but that was not the case at the moment.

"We're often the meat in the sandwich where we're acting for the insurer and sometimes the insurer and the homeowner don't see eye to eye, and often it's outside of our control as to what the solution is."

Christchurch housing.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Construction safety

Meanwhile, the Registered Masters Builders Association says new measures to make construction sites safer in Christchurch are already being put in place.

More than 200 construction sites in the city were shut down for being unsafe last year.

Injury numbers have risen dramatically over the past four years and the Council of Trade Unions is calling for fresh legislation to cover safety in the Christchurch rebuild.

Registered Masters Builders Association chief executive Warwick Quinn said new safety measures were in place and piling on more legislation would not necessarily mean fewer workplace accidents.