24 Jun 2020

Botched repairs still turning up in Christchurch

7:51 am on 24 June 2020

Pre-sale building inspections are continuing to uncover hundreds of Christchurch homes with botched repairs or undeclared damage.

A house in Avonside, damaged in the 22 February Canterbury earthquake, 2011.

File photo of a house in Avonside damaged in the 22 February Canterbury earthquake, 2011. Photo: 123RF

This comes as a $300 million government compensation scheme, designed to help those caught out with damaged houses, is due to wrap up.

As of February, the Earthquake Commission had bailed out 561 homeowners who had found botched repairs or undeclared damage only after buying their house.

But any damage found after 14 August this year would not qualify for compensation.

Nicky Holland was recently in the market for a home in Christchurch and said she was shocked at the state of many of the houses up for sale - 10 years on from the earthquakes.

"Lots of houses that had had their full repairs done apparently, but still had issues. I mean, we walked into some of these houses, the floors were all over the place. It was quite clearly something not right. You know, houses that have been repaired but paint was tearing."

One home in Huntsbury, less than 30 years old, had more than $100,000 worth of repairs done but was still not right.

"We were really confident, thought you know, this is the one. And then we got a building report, a full building report done and that came back with floor levels being out of level by 50ml, in one room."

The damage was a deal breaker for Nicky Holland.

Shockingly the home went back on the market and was sold within a month.

Some houses she saw didn't require a building report for her to know things were not right.

"The floors were all over the place. And we walked around the outside looking at the ring foundation and sort of tapped the plaster as we went around the house and you could actually hear that hollow sound as you got to bog."

Holland is well qualified to comment on buying a home in post-quake Christchurch, having fallen victim to a botched EQC repair herself.

But she worried about the lack of knowledge out there amongst the house buying public.

"And there were people saying 'it's really lovely isn't it' and we'd say 'yeah, it is, but there's obviously some issues here'. And they would just give us this glazed look."

The chair of the Law Society's property section and Christchurch lawyer, Duncan Terris, said up to a fifth of the cases that came across his desk involved people only discovering damage after they had bought a house.

"Part of the issue will be pretty much invisible, not really seen defects. Such as piles underneath the house that have been propped up, not properly redone. Cracks filled inadequately."

There was a cottage industry in the city of builders buying up written off homes, fixing them and then on selling them.

In this way, some homes that should have been demolished were finding their way back in to circulation, he said.

"Most of the time, they will do thorough work. I am aware of some properties that have been bought 'as is where is' and basically patch repairs done. So if you're buying something that has been perhaps only bought a few months prior, I would certainly be asking for evidence of work done."

Terris said hidden quake damage could be as big as the leaky homes crisis, but did not believe the government should extend its compensation scheme beyond one year, saying it could not go on forever.

As the August deadline loomed, Holland had this advice for those who worried their home may not be the nest egg they had hoped for.

"If I had a house that had been repaired by Fletchers, I would be going back and asking for a reassessment ... for peace of mind if nothing else."

EQC Minister Grant Robertson declined to be interviewed for this story.

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