7 Oct 2023

Builder loses licence over poor workmanship, leaving homeowner with $140k repair bill

4:28 pm on 7 October 2023

By Jeremy Wilkinson, Open Justice reporter of NZ Herald

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A builder responsible for a $140,000 botch-up during the construction of a house has liquidated his company and left the country, leaving creditors $340,000 in the lurch.

Kheng Sun, who also goes by the name Kevin, had his building licence cancelled after two complaints relating to errors found in projects he was both working on and supervising.

"It is almost as if they just did some work to show progress without following the actual plans for construction of a house," the owner of one of the properties said in his complaint to the Taupō District Council.

Among the faults discovered on the Waikato property was that it had been built in a trapezoid shape with the top of the walls 200 millimetres wider than the bottom, meaning the roof would not fit.

The house had to be taken down and rebuilt on the advice of an engineer and two other builders.

This came at a cost of about $140,000 to the homeowner, who complained about Sun's work to the council, which in turn referred him to the Building Practitioners Board.

But Sun did not attend his hearing before the board in July this year.

Instead, he provided a written response claiming the owner rushed him and the house should not have been built in winter.

He also said the owner had seen the out-of-plumb walls and said: "Just put it up, it's fine."

This week, the board publicly released its August decision, in which Sun's building licence was cancelled.

The decision stated he had put his company, K Sun Construction, into liquidation and left New Zealand before the matter was concluded.

In the complaint to the board, the council noted multiple issues with the property that were supported by inspection records.

Those records noted floor joists were not connected to walls and did not support the upper floor.

"This area of the building in particular displayed evidence of poor workmanship and a lack of supervision for the licensed building practitioner," one inspection read.

"Frames out-of-plumb and not correctly secured to adjoining walls. Walls out-of-plumb."

The homeowner's complaint to the council alleged Sun had not followed the building plans.

"A major issue we also had is the walls are not square, leaving the house roofless and partial teardown required."

He told the board he had not been able to recover any money from Sun, given that Sun had liquidated his company.

An insolvency report listed on the Companies Office website stated Sun owed creditors a combined $350,000. Liquidators were able to sell off assets and recoup just $11,000.

Sun said in a statement to the board that he had never had problems on other sites and that the Waikato homeowner had rushed him into building the property.

"I think the problem was I should have been on site more to oversee these problems, or my foreman should have made contact with me if there was a problem before carrying on."

In cancelling his building licence and ordering that he may not apply to be relicensed for 18 months, the board found Sun's conduct had departed from an acceptable standard.

"It was clear from the evidence before the board that the building work was carried out in a substandard and non-compliant manner. The failings were fundamental and numerous."

A second decision from the board relating to Sun was released this week, about a house in Manawatū.

After a complaint from the homeowner, the board again found Sun guilty of negligence and incompetence.

"Right from the start, Kevin had a careless approach to our build," the second complainant told the board.

The decision said Sun's company had laid out the foundation for the garage too close to the boundary and got the dimensions wrong so the frames were either overhanging the slab or too short.

The finished concrete floor had chips in it and a drop of 10mm where Sun had failed to box in the concrete properly.

The complainant also said Sun left the frames uncovered for months before partially covering them with offcuts of building wrap.

"The frames were left uncovered for so long that the council ordered he had to take off the wrap and batten they had finally installed, to paint frame safe on the gable ends where they were exposed for too long."

There were other issues raised about Sun allegedly using the wrong product or material and "hoping no one would notice".

"Kevin likes to shift the blame from himself and thinks that no responsibility should be left with him to deal with," the complainant claimed.

In response to the second complaint, Sun said it was the fault of an employee whom he had since fired, the decision stated.

In cancelling Sun's licence again, the board said his conduct was serious.

"The respondent's offending has been aggravated by his failure to take responsibility (the respondent put his company into liquidation and then left New Zealand), apportioning blame to those working under his supervision, and failing to address the issues he caused or to respond to them during the board's investigations."

Sun could not be reached for comment.

This story was originally published by the New Zealand Herald.

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