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Builder wont repair his dodgy work- HELP!

By 30 January 2012 32

Hi All, I have a problem and don’t know what to do or where to turn now. I have discovered that my house leaks uncontrollably when it rains due to a crap roof design. 

We bought the house in 07 and only discovered that it leaked at the end of 2009 when the drought broke, all over my living room floor. Since then we have tried several methods of fixing the problem and nothing is working.

We have been denied an insurance payout/fix as the reason for leaking is poor build, not the amount of rain.  We have had two rough quotes given to us for between 30 & 50k for redesign of the roof. Obviously we cannot afford this and don’t think that we should have to pay for it anyway. 

It is just shy of 10 years since compliance and we have lodged a complaint with the relevant authority regarding a breach of code, outcome unknown as yet, but they cant force him to fix it even if they find he is in the wrong.

We have been advised to get a lawyer involved but the two I have spoken to so far have requested a $10k retainer and 3-4 hundred per hour.   Again, not money I have lying around…     

So, the builder doesn’t think he should fix it as we have taken 2 years to contact him since the leak first occurred.  I am currently writing him the obligatory letter of demand as per fair trading’s requirements but am at a loss as to who to turn to. The builder is at fault, of that there is not doubt. Does anyone know of a lawyer that might not charge quite so much??

Anyone out there who has been through a similar situation?  We are almost at the point now where the damage to the internal gyprock is dangerous and may fall in the next rain storm.

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32 Responses to Builder wont repair his dodgy work- HELP!
#1
matt3122112:55 pm, 30 Jan 12

Your lawyer wants a 10K retainer with 3-4 hundred an hour? Wow, I’m in the wrong business. NO lawyer is worth that much.

Have you called the free legal aid service through Canberra Connect? Perhaps they can advise on how to represent yourself. It surely can’t be that hard.

And you have been quoted 30 & 50k to fix the roof!!!?? Your builder must of COMPLETELY screwed that up. I got a quote to remove my roof tiles in a three bedroom house and replace the entire roof with color bond. 7k for the lot.

If you don’t mind me asking how did he stuff it? Have you got a fancy trough running down the centre of the roof that wasn’t done right or something like that?

#2
harvyk11:31 pm, 30 Jan 12

How can you prove it was a poor build? Did it state it was so on a building inspection report which you were given (or could have purchase yourself) when you brought the house? Roofs are not infallible, they do need maintenance from time to time, tiles break and move for various reasons (eg wind \ someone walking around on your roof with or with out permission etc…) Which then comes to what maintenance have you yourself done to the house? Do you regularly check the roof for damaged tiles?

I’m certainly sorry for the position you are in, but I don’t see how it is the builders fault considering the house is nearly 10 years old, unless you where provided a 10 year warranty on the work.

#3
RedDogInCan1:34 pm, 30 Jan 12

matt31221 said :

And you have been quoted 30 & 50k to fix the roof!!!?? Your builder must of COMPLETELY screwed that up. I got a quote to remove my roof tiles in a three bedroom house and replace the entire roof with color bond. 7k for the lot.

I’d suggest it is something a little more involved than a simple tile replacement. Anything to do with roof design probably involves new trusses which becomes a major job.

#4
GardeningGirl2:07 pm, 30 Jan 12

harvyk1 said :

How can you prove it was a poor build? . . . .

I’m certainly sorry for the position you are in, but I don’t see how it is the builders fault considering the house is nearly 10 years old, unless you where provided a 10 year warranty on the work.

I too would like to know exactly what the fault identified is, but I can completely understand a fault not becoming obvious until either a certain amount of use has occurred or something has changed eg the drought breaking.

#5
Duffbowl2:27 pm, 30 Jan 12

From ACTPLA (http://www.actpla.act.gov.au/topics/design_build/manage_construction/building_insurance)

Statutory warranties

Statutory warranties are implied by law whether or not they are detailed in the contract between you and your builder. They require construction to be carried out:
- in compliance with the Building Act 2004;
- in a proper manner and in accordance with the approved plans;
- using good and suitable materials;
- with reasonable diligence where no completion date is specified; and
- to ensure it will reasonably meet the requirements expressly made known by the owner.

Your building certifier oversees this during notifications and inspections.

In the ACT, statutory warranties expire:
- for structural work, at the end of six years after the date on which the Certificate of Occupancy was issued; and
- for non-structural work, at the end of two years after the date on which the Certificate of Occupancy was issued.

Good luck with whatever action you take against the builder. If you’re lucky, they won’t close up shop before you take action, and restart with a new name and new principal.

#6
shirty_bear2:31 pm, 30 Jan 12

Is it a design flaw or a construction flaw? You seem to bounce between the one allegation and the other. Seems to me they’re very different things. And it seems unlikely to me that the builder was also the designer/architect/??
(feel free to straighten me out otherwise)

If it really is poor design, then the builder may well have got it exactly according to plan. Hard to hold him to account for this.

If it’s shoddy building work, then $30-50K of roof re-design is way over the top. Get a roof-fixer to fix it.
(chasing an incompetent to fix his own incompetence almost never ends happily.)

#7
Athryn2:40 pm, 30 Jan 12

Sorry but wouldn’t this been identified in the engineers report from when you bought the house?

#8
Rex Banner2:45 pm, 30 Jan 12

We are currently dealing with a very similar situation, although our house is only 6 years old. It’s a very long story (I was going to post a brief version to get advice from other people on whether our experience is normal), but after we weren’t able to get the builder to fix the roof 2 years ago (or even show up to our house when he promised to) we decided to submit a complaint to ACTPLA. It was under warranty still at that time, although this seems to count for nothing. We live in a row of townhouses, and have spoken to the owners of a number of other adjoining premises. They have experienced similar problems with water damage (among other issues) and haven’t had much luck with the builder either.

Dealing with ACTPLA is proving to be an equally frustrating experience, as it has now been over 12 months since we submitted our complaint and very little has been achieved. I’d be interested to know whether ACTPLA is the ‘authority’ that you said can’t force the builder to fix the problem, as this is different advice to what we received.

As part of the complaint we had to get a report from an independent structural engineer, which found the builder had breached the building code by taking a number of shortcuts. ACTPLA has given the builder several opportunities to respond to various findings made against him and to fix the problem during this time, which of course he hasn’t done. Apparently we are a ‘test case’ that hasn’t previously been encountered by ACTPLA, although I find it hard to believe that since this builder was already known to them and had been the subject of other complaints. They never contact me to tell me what’s going on, and I must be on a black list now as they haven’t responded to my emails or phone messages in over a month (and before you ask, I promise I am always polite!).

We’re now trying to find someone to repair the roof ourselves. We wouldn’t have bothered with the process of making a complaint had we known it would take this long or be this frustrating, but since we were told that if the builder didn’t fix the problem that ACTPLA would contract someone to do it and recoup costs from the builder we felt we should see the process through. Hardly seems worth having building warranties and codes if it doesn’t protect the home owner from dodgy practices. We just want the problem fixed, as we now want to sell the place.

I’d be curious to know whether anyone else has made a similar complaint to ACTPLA and what the outcome was? If ACTPLA aren’t doing what they are supposed to, who do you complain to?

#9
Holden Caulfield2:48 pm, 30 Jan 12

It could also be that the builder simply followed the instructions of the architect/plans to the letter and it was the theory that is wrong.

Hard to know without knowing more details about the entire process.

When we bought our current house the building report said the roof would need replacing in approx five years or so. Turns out we had to replace it in two years, haha.

IIRC it was $12-15K to re-do the metal roof on our pretty standard-sized 50s inner north 3 bedder.

We tried the insurance angle on the proviso the repair was needed sooner than our report stated, which was sourced in good faith, but no joy. Not surprising I guess.

Sure paying the money sucked, but there was a quiet satisfaction knowing we were water tight.

#10
harvyk12:49 pm, 30 Jan 12

Duffbowl said :

From ACTPLA (http://www.actpla.act.gov.au/topics/design_build/manage_construction/building_insurance)

Statutory warranties

Statutory warranties are implied by law whether or not they are detailed in the contract between you and your builder. They require construction to be carried out:
-

in compliance with the Building Act 2004;
-

in a proper manner and in accordance with the approved plans;
-

using good and suitable materials;
-

with reasonable diligence where no completion date is specified; and
-

to ensure it will reasonably meet the requirements expressly made known by the owner.

Your building certifier oversees this during notifications and inspections.

In the ACT, statutory warranties expire:
-

for structural work, at the end of six years after the date on which the Certificate of Occupancy was issued; and
-

for non-structural work, at the end of two years after the date on which the Certificate of Occupancy was issued.

Good luck with whatever action you take against the builder. If you’re lucky, they won’t close up shop before you take action, and restart with a new name and new principal.

In compliance with the Building Act 2004? Bit difficult considering the house was built prior to 2004.

Besides assuming the house was built in 2002 (assuming just shy of 10 years means a few months younger than 10 years) means a statutory warranty would have expired in 2008, a year before the fault was found according to what you’ve posted.

#11
umehomes3:27 pm, 30 Jan 12

I am confused with the 2 year non structural warranty and 7 years structural warranty. What classified as non-structural and structural? Is a leaking pipe behind toilet wall a structural or non-structural?

Also, ACTPLA seems useless when home owners try to make their builder to rectify something. The most recent experience with ACTPLA of mine was I am looking for a drainage plan for my new constructed home which I believe the builder should sumbit it to ACTPLA and you are eligible to request a copy of this from ACTPLA website. However, when I asked the copy, ACTPLA could not find it and then told me I need to get this from the builder. When I ask them what about if the builder refuse to give this me, ACTPLA responsed that they can not force the builder to do it. When I asked them again isn’t the drainage plan should be part of development plan which ACTPLA should maintain such record and make this avaialbe when home owner want it, they become silence and said nothing they can do.

WTF!!!

#12
harvyk13:37 pm, 30 Jan 12

umehomes said :

I am confused with the 2 year non structural warranty and 7 years structural warranty. What classified as non-structural and structural? Is a leaking pipe behind toilet wall a structural or non-structural?

A structural thing would be things which go into making the house stand, for example the walls \ ceilings and roofs,

Non structural things would be things which are required in a house these days, but if they stop working the house is in no danger of falling over, for example electrical work, plumbing, air conditioning \ heating etc…

So a leaking pipe would be counted as non structural, as the house is unlikely to fall down, as appose to say giant cracks appearing in the wall, that would be counted as a structural problem as there is a risk the house could fall down as a result.

#13
umehomes4:02 pm, 30 Jan 12

Thanks harvyk1
So is this mean if I find a leaking pipe behind toilet wall, under 2 years non-structural warranty, I can still call the builder come back to fix it for free of charge?

In theory…right??? (because builder may disappear or not answer their phone call or …)

#14
RedDogInCan4:12 pm, 30 Jan 12

Athryn said :

Sorry but wouldn’t this been identified in the engineers report from when you bought the house?

Surely you jest. Pre-purchase building inspections are about as far away as an engineers report as you can get. I recently got one done on my house as part of the sale requirements. After engaging a well established firm to do the inspection, a bloke in a pair of sandals turns up and has a bit of a walk around. He did get his ladder out but only climbed up two steps to quickly glance at the roof. The report contained such gems as the ‘bedrooms have carpet on the floor’. He totally failed to notice that said carpet was threadbare.

Even when the building inspectors are real professionals you can get caught out. On a recent interstate inspection, the inspector took two hours to complete the inspection, had a big torch, a screwdriver for poking, a moisture meter, a thermal camera and even a bag of marbles to check which way the floors drained in the wet areas. I went with him during the inspection and we discovered significant decay in the structural timbers – to the extent that he didn’t consider the house safe to live in. However, in the 13 page report we got, only 1 page discussed the condition of the property and only one sentence alluded that there may be a moderate chance of an undetected structural problem. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I probably would have gone ahead with the purchase.

Holden Caulfield said :

It could also be that the builder simply followed the instructions of the architect/plans to the letter and it was the theory that is wrong.

It is the builder who is responsible for complying with the building code, irrespective of what bright ideas the architect comes up with.

#15
Holden Caulfield4:26 pm, 30 Jan 12

RedDogInCan said :

Holden Caulfield said :

It could also be that the builder simply followed the instructions of the architect/plans to the letter and it was the theory that is wrong.

It is the builder who is responsible for complying with the building code, irrespective of what bright ideas the architect comes up with.

You’re not suggesting the building code is infallible, I hope? :P

#16
umehomes4:33 pm, 30 Jan 12

Agree with RedDogInCan

I found this is really true that you have to go with the inspector to do the inspection. It seems that inspector will only mention to you the “real defects” verbaly but not going to show on their report.

Sometimes I am wondering are inspectors under pressure not telling real stuff in their report?

#17
Gerry-Built4:40 pm, 30 Jan 12

Try contacting the HIA. They used to insure (underwrite?) the work of registered builders in the ACT. Although, we had a problem with the paint used to paint our house (peeling off after 2 years, on a new house) and they said that wasn’t covered, because it was a finish, not structural. Your problem definitely seems more structural; contact the HIA (ACT)… Even if they don’t do that anymore, they will certainly be able to advise you.

#18
DanielK5:27 pm, 30 Jan 12

Having read the thread of comments here and in related stories, and recalled my own hairy experiences and those of many friends, there must be many hundreds of Canberrans who have recently had to battle with builders who do not keep to what are rudimentary standards of construction, customer service or even fair dealing.

This isn’t new, we’ve been whinging about builders, ACTPLA and their professional associations for years -but have never been able to do anything about it. Except those who can afford long legal processes -and then for the pleasure of being proved right more than for proper compensation.

Isn’t there anything else that can be done to beat the shoddy builders?

#19
harvyk15:29 pm, 30 Jan 12

umehomes said :

Thanks harvyk1
So is this mean if I find a leaking pipe behind toilet wall, under 2 years non-structural warranty, I can still call the builder come back to fix it for free of charge?

In theory…right??? (because builder may disappear or not answer their phone call or …)

In theory that is correct… As has been shown here, actually enforcing a warranty claim is another story.

#20
RedDogInCan6:21 pm, 30 Jan 12

Holden Caulfield said :

You’re not suggesting the building code is infallible, I hope? :P

It does gradually improve over time. The house I mentioned earlier with the structural problems had used oregon as structural timbers exposed to the weather – perfectly acceptable at the time of construction but not permitted today because it was found to not last very long.

umehomes said :

Sometimes I am wondering are inspectors under pressure not telling real stuff in their report?

If it isn’t in writing then they can’t be held legally responsible. Most building reports have so many exclusions that even a blind inspector could undertake the inspection.

Like anything, its a case of looking at the incentives. Inspectors get a lot of business by referal from the agent. Its in their interest to maintain a good relationship with the agent by not jepardise the sale with a too critical report. In the old days at least the buyer had the choice of inspector; these days the seller picks the inspector and they definitely aren’t looking for a close attention to detail.

#21
Innovation6:45 pm, 30 Jan 12

Like others here, I’d be interested to know how the roof is designed, what the fault is and what is proposed to rectify the fault. Perhaps you could post photos of the area of the roof where the fault is and in the roof space (if you can get access to it). Also the plans for the existing roof design and, if you have it, the plans for what is proposed to fix it would be interesting to see. Finally, probably a big ask but, any chance you would like to name the builder and draftsman/architect?

If you post more info, RA readers might have more info for you such as whether it was up to code at the time it was designed/built, whether others have had similar problems for the same type of design and, ideally, whether others have had similar problems for the same designer/builder.

#22
Sammy8:58 pm, 30 Jan 12

The only way that I can think that the roof design is flawed in such a way as to involve a $30-$50k rebuild is if a box-gutter is involved.

#23
Henry8212:31 am, 31 Jan 12

wow, thats a pretty big screw up. You can’t just pull all the tiles off and attach on some colourbond? surely someone could do it for less than 30k

#24
ThisIsAName10:13 am, 31 Jan 12

Rex Banner said :

If ACTPLA aren’t doing what they are supposed to, who do you complain to?

This and some of the other complaints may fall into a category where the ACT ombudsman could investigate: http://ombudsman.act.gov.au/

According to their website, they look into these sorts of problems:
http://ombudsman.act.gov.au/pages/making-a-complaint/complaints-the-ombudsman-can-investigate/act-government-agencies.php

Also, have you checked much of the relevant legislation/codes/documentation? Like various ACT govt agencies, ACTPLA’s activities/powers are no doubt limited in a way that increases the frustration of resolving things. If you’re concerned about the lack of contact, perhaps you could reference the customer charter and see if it stirs anything up?
http://www.actpla.act.gov.au/contact_us/customer_commitments_conduct

#25
welkin3110:47 am, 31 Jan 12

Looking at monthly rain numbers for Canberra Airport 74Daizies;
http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/data/
I do not think any drought broke in December 2009 – the main daily fall was 28mm or a bit over – there were similar falls during April and Sept 09. No leaks then ?
IMHO it would have been in the second half of 2010 that Canberrans could talk of drought breaking rain.
Also there was actually much more rain in December 2008 (121mm in Dec 08 – vs 76mm in Dec 09)- in Dec 2008 there was a 55mm event on the 13th and a 30mm day on the 28th.
Have you thought why that Dec 2008 rain did not cause your roof to leak ? You said you moved in 2007.
If your roof did keep you dry in Dec 2008 – then I would be taking that into account when you examine your roof trying to figure the cause of your problem.

#26
74Daizies5:47 pm, 31 Jan 12

Ok,
been at the coast for a couple of days… sorry.

Matt31221:

Yes, there is a fancy trough running through the roof. It is a split level home and the said gutter/trough is internal and runs through the join of the two levels of roof. Does that make sense?
This trough thingo makes a 45 degree turn about half way (which is directly above my living room and where all the damage is. So, under this trough there is a 2×2 square of some sort of foil like material, laid between the gyprock and trusses. Oh, our wonderful builder KNEW exactly what he was doing when he put that down.

Harveyk1:

Because the engineers report says so!

Duffbowl:

Yes, we are looking into the certifier also. However, we are out of the time for using the Stat Warranty

Rex Banner:

I would love to have a chat… You and I are in a similar boat!

Innovation:

Sorry to be vague. I am trying not to get myself into trouble. And yes, the ‘authority’ have recognized it as a breach of code.

This problem isn’t just a matter of replacing a few roof tiles. this will require an engineer redesigning the way the roof goes and then building it. The original plan was for a flat house not split level on a sloping block, so there was some creativity used by the builder.

What else? Could I name them? Well, of course I could but then I would be the one in trouble wouldn’t I?

Does anyone know of a cheaper lawyer? If the two I have called are anything to go by then I am in the wrong career also…

PS, thanks for the comments guys. this is only my second post. x

#27
74Daizies5:53 pm, 31 Jan 12

Henry82 said :

wow, thats a pretty big screw up. You can’t just pull all the tiles off and attach on some colourbond? surely someone could do it for less than 30k

Yeah, probably. Im just so frustrated that it’s looking like I will be the one paying for the repair work here and none of it is my fault. When I get a final NO that the builder wont fix and I know it’s me paying I will be publicly naming the builder and posting photos of his work.

That said I would like a tin roof, if for no other reason that they don’t tend to leak as much!!

#28
74Daizies6:01 pm, 31 Jan 12

Harvyk1;
I realize that roofs require regular maintenance. We do the work!! Plus my dad is pretty handy with these matters and does a load of work for us. This, unfortunately is a fairly clear case of shoddy workmanship on the builders part. And please don’t for one minute think that we have just sat around watching the rain come in for two years… We have tried several different things to try and stop the water, and still when it rains heavily down it comes. I have had several builders in for their opinions and work and two roofing plumbers. Each change/repair we try is only tested each time it rains heavily… so its a slow process!

#29
Holden Caulfield6:08 pm, 31 Jan 12

My experience with box gutters (or what I imagine you are calling the trough) says it’s better to over-engineer the solution with the absolute worst case scenario in mind. Then expect it to take a couple of goes to get right. Hopefully it won’t ever be a problem, but it’s probably best to expect a one or two to arise one day.

Install some strong mesh over the box gutter, too, as this will prevent the build up of hail which slowly melts and may seep in under the roof and sarking (that’s the shiny foil stuff).

Box gutters can and do work perfectly well and have aesthetic and rain harvesting properties that may appeal to some, but roofers and/or builders need to think a bit harder than they do for the typical pitch roof. And therein lies the real problem!

#30
74Daizies6:08 pm, 31 Jan 12

welkin31 said :

Looking at monthly rain numbers for Canberra Airport 74Daizies;
http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/data/
I do not think any drought broke in December 2009 – the main daily fall was 28mm or a bit over – there were similar falls during April and Sept 09. No leaks then ?
IMHO it would have been in the second half of 2010 that Canberrans could talk of drought breaking rain.
Also there was actually much more rain in December 2008 (121mm in Dec 08 – vs 76mm in Dec 09)- in Dec 2008 there was a 55mm event on the 13th and a 30mm day on the 28th.
Have you thought why that Dec 2008 rain did not cause your roof to leak ? You said you moved in 2007.
If your roof did keep you dry in Dec 2008 – then I would be taking that into account when you examine your roof trying to figure the cause of your problem.

Yeah, I think (looking back to my vague notes) that the serious problems started in sept 09. (22nd comes to mind.
We are told that the foil flashing kept us a bit drier than a roof without it would have but we didn’t think at the time that it was going to be such a huge problem, and consequently didn’t keep a good diary on it all.

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