Landmark leaky homes decision due

A Supreme Court ruling due out today is likely to be watched very closely by hundreds of leaky home owners who aren't currently eligible for compensation because of the length of time that's passed since the building was finished.

Auckland couple John and Helen Osborne have been locked in a legal battle with Auckland City Council and the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service for years.

They're in dispute over whether the 10-year limitation on claims should start from when a building is physically completed, or from when it's officially signed off with a code of compliance certificate by the Council.

The case is considered something of a test case as it's thought there are hundreds of others in the same situation as the Osbornes.

Their housing woes began in 1997, when they discovered the house they'd bought in April that year was leaking. The house was covered by a Master Build guarantee and the leaks were repaired by the original builder and subcontractor.

What they didn't know was that while they could no longer see water leaking into the house, it was still leaking into the structure. That was only discovered in 2006, when painters they hired suggested the building might be leaky.

After assessments were done over the following months, they filed a claim with the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service in 2007, only to be told they were not eligible for compensation.

That's because while code of compliance certificates for the house were issued in early 1997, the build of the house was completed in 1996, so the Resolution Service decided that meant the 10-year limitation period was up.

A High Court review, and an appeal to the Court of Appeal, were unsuccessful for the Osbornes, but the Supreme Court agreed to hear their claim in November last year, the outcome of which will be released this morning.

Complicating matters, after that Supreme Court hearing last year, Auckland Council offered to settle with the couple out of court, which the Osbornes accepted.

However, that settlement was conditional on the Supreme Court not proceeding to make a ruling on the case. Given the Supreme Court is proceeding, that offer becomes null and void.

That means a decision in the Osbornes' favour today would see them go right back to the beginning of the process to have their leaky building claim heard by the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service.

However it could also clear the way for hundreds of others to do the same.

Scaffolding outside a leaky building. Source: 1 NEWS