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Canterbury couple distraught as local council votes against paying out for its role in leaky home nightmare

A Canterbury couple have been left distraught after Waimakariri District councillors voted against paying out for the council’s role in a leaky home nightmare.

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Homeowner Nic Hammond is in tears and disbelieving. Source: Fair Go

Homeowner Nic Hammond is in tears and disbelieving. She and husband Kerry just heard the bad news.

“The council figured that we‘re unworthy. They’re sticking to the legal side of it,” Nic adds, clutching her husband’s hand.

They can barely recollect other details of the call from the council’s chief executive, Jim Palmer.

“Did he really just say that? He did, didn’t he,” says Nic as Kerry gasps for air.

Kerry and Nic Hammond bought their earth block house complete with a code compliance certificate, which means the council certified it had been built to last 50 years.

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But the Waimakariri District Council say they’ve missed their chance for a pay-out. Source: Fair Go

It started failing within five years as the Excalibur earth blocks that hold up the roof and make up the walls crumbled and let in the weather.

Fair Go featured massive failures at other Excalibur earth brick and earth block homes in 2000.

Documents seen by Fair Go show Waimakariri District Council had seen those programmes and had decided in 2000 that it would be most unwise to issue consents for Excalibur products from then on.

It reiterated that to the builder and former owner of the Hammond’s in 2006 but even so, officials for Waimakariri District Council agreed in 2008 on a method to sign off the building the Hammond’s bought in 2010.

Fair Go has asked the council to explain when a final inspection took place – so far the council has not provided that information.

The Hammonds have been battling the sign-off decision since 2015 when the damage got so bad, they shifted out for the winter.

The Government’s building regulator the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) stepped in and examined the process and determined Waimakariri District Council had failed to properly exercise its power of decision, should have known better at the time and should never have signed off the building as no amount of reasonable maintenance would save it.

The Hammonds were in negotiation after that with Waimakariri District Council - up until a 10-year deadline to sue ticked over, at which point the council broke off negotiations, cited the deadline and told the couple they should have sued and would get nothing now from council.

After Fair Go aired the Hammonds' awful predicament, lawyer Adina Thorn stepped in and helped the couple free of charge to make a further appeal for an ex gratia payment – one based on doing the right thing, rather than leaning on that 10-year limitation.

Councillors called for a report and considered the situation, but on November 3rd a majority voted to do the same thing all over again to the family.

Chief executive Jim Palmer says the council empathises with the owners' predicament.

“The council maintains the best way of addressing this matter would have been through the courts where the liability of all the parties involved in building the house, advising the former owner and the council on code compliance, advising the current owners at the time they bought the property and subsequently, should have been considered."

It may get that chance if the couple opt to explore a legal case based on the council’s handling of the matter, since MBIE determined it had got that wrong.

“What do you do? You’ve just got to keep fighting,” says Kerry Hammond.