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Builder wont repair his dodgy work- HELP!

74Daizies 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!
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EvanJames EvanJames 10:41 am 17 Feb 12

GardeningGirl said :

We contacted ACTPLA and they sent someone out who talked like it was almost too minor a problem to have bothered him with and suggested a solution that was so mindbogglingly ridiculous that I still wonder how he ever graduated kindergarten! If it wasn’t so scary that he was an “expert” from the “authorities” it would have been really funny.

You can’t leave it like that! Tell us what the kindergarten-graduate told you.

GardeningGirl GardeningGirl 10:19 am 17 Feb 12

74Daizies said :

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.

Yeah, I know what you mean.
Every time I check the weather radar (for my own anxiety inducing reasons) I now think of you too and hope you are making some progress with your problem.

Rex Banner said :

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?

We contacted ACTPLA and they sent someone out who talked like it was almost too minor a problem to have bothered him with and suggested a solution that was so mindbogglingly ridiculous that I still wonder how he ever graduated kindergarten! If it wasn’t so scary that he was an “expert” from the “authorities” it would have been really funny.

74Daizies 74Daizies 6:08 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.

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 6:08 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!

74Daizies 74Daizies 6:01 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!

74Daizies 74Daizies 5:53 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!!

74Daizies 74Daizies 5:47 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

welkin31 welkin31 10:47 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.

ThisIsAName ThisIsAName 10:13 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

Henry82 Henry82 12:31 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

Sammy Sammy 8:58 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.

Innovation Innovation 6:45 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.

RedDogInCan RedDogInCan 6:21 pm 30 Jan 12

Holden Caulfield said :

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

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.

harvyk1 harvyk1 5:29 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.

DanielK DanielK 5:27 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?

Gerry-Built Gerry-Built 4:40 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.

umehomes umehomes 4:33 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?

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 4:26 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? 😛

RedDogInCan RedDogInCan 4:12 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.

umehomes umehomes 4:02 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 …)

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