House dreams turn sour
HAVING his dream home and an investment property built side by side has turned into a prolonged nightmare for Kingsthorpe resident Barry Hodges.
His long battle to have the damage caused by faulty foundations repaired has now taken a hit with the industry regulator withdrawing its direction to rectify against Coral Homes.
It has been seven years since Mr Hodges and his wife Nadine took ownership of their two Gowrie St houses after having them built by Coral Homes.
Such is the extent of the damage caused by shifting slabs, they have been told it will be more cost effective to demolish and rebuild the home in which they live rather than have the damage repaired.
The results of an engineer's survey, conducted earlier this month on his investment property, will determine whether or not they should take the same approach for that home as well.
Mr Hodges, who is the owner of Amigos Bar and Grill in Toowoomba, said the use of foundations unsuitable for the soil type has led to movement of up to 150mm in his home and up to 85mm in his neighbouring property.
It has caused the exterior and interior walls of both houses to crack and buckle.
Damage is also apparent in the bow in the floors as well as cracks to roofs, windows and door frames.
At the core of Mr Hodges concerns is the recent collapse of action being taken by regulatory body Queensland Building Services Authority to have Coral Homes rectify the damage to his home.
He said his residential home was one of eight Coral homes built in the Darling Downs, Lockyer Valley and Redbank Plains area that the authority had identified as in need of rectification by the builder.
The directions were issued from March 2011.
Those directions were then subject to appeals by Coral which had since been presided over by the Queensland Civil Administration Tribunal.
Building Services Authority general manager Ian Jennings said a decision of the Supreme Court in a completely separate matter made the eight directions in the Coral Homes matter voidable.
"As a result, the directions to rectify in these current matters were set aside by consent of the parties and returned to the Building Services Authority," Mr Jennings said.
He said the matters were set aside on July 5.
"The Building Services Authority withdrew the directions, as this approach will help to avoid further delays."
He pointed out that the Queensland Civil Administration Tribunal was yet to make a finding in the Coral Homes case as to who was responsible for the defective works.
"The Building Services Authority still holds the builder responsible for what it believes to be poorly performing slab and footing systems.
He said the authority was awaiting receipt of the final orders from the tribunal.
"The Building Services Authority is involved in ongoing communication with all affected home owners and intends to work with them to resolve their complaints."
It came as little solace for Mr Hodges.
He said he wasn't until last week, after pushing the issue in his communications with the authority, that he found out the orders had been set aside.
"Telling my wife... she's just a mess over it," Mr Hodges said.
"This stress has been going on for so long and I've been the positive person trying to say the BSA is looking after us.
"Its going to come together, we are going to get an outcome, that is what the law is there for, that is what everyone is there for.
"And now to get to the point where 'oh, you are going to have to do it on your own'- that is not acceptable.
"It puts a real strain on everything."
Mr Hodges said he met with a representative from the authority in January as well as other Coral homeowners who were in a similar situation.
Not viable for repair
He said it was then when he was told his residential home was not viable for repair and the authority would be paying him out under its home warranty insurance scheme.
That payout was the maximum $200,000 allowed under the scheme and arrived in his bank account in early July.
He said the authority in January indicated it would pursue Coral for the recovery of the $200,000 as well as the total restitution cost of repairing or rebuilding as well as personal damages for stress and suffering.
However, in an email sent from the authority to Mr Hodges last Wednesday, he was informed that would not be the case.
He was told the authority had no statutory obligations to pursue civil damages on behalf of individual homeowners for stress or hardship.
"Building Services Authority does not provide legal assistance or funding to homeowners," the email read.
"That is for homeowners themselves to fund or depending on their financial situation agencies such as Legal Aid."
It was a major blow to Mr Hodges.
"I am disturbed that we have taken the advice of the Building Services Authority in these matters, only now, more than five years further on, to be told that we will still have to take action against the builder directly at great expense to us," Mr Hodges replied.
His next step has been to contact a law firm to discuss the possibility of starting a class action against Coral Homes.
He wants other Coral homeowners who have found themselves in a similar position to contact him.
"I want them to get in touch with me so we can band together to start a class action firstly against Coral Homes and hopefully the BSA as well."
Coral Homes national building manager David Dawson said the company had touched base with Mr Hodges.
"We are working with him," Mr Dawson said.
"We are only too keen to resolve Barry and Nadine's problems on both of their houses."
He said Coral also planned to get in contact with the owners of the other seven homes which had previously been the subjects of orders to rectify by the authority.
"We have always intended to do the right thing with these customers, provided it could be proven who was ultimately responsible.
"We would never just simply walk away and put our head in the sand over it."
Mr Dawson said it was difficult to determine who was at fault for the faulty slabs.
He mentioned the independent engineers who designed the slabs as being involved.
"The important thing is we are in discussions to resolve problems."
To get in touch with Mr Hodges email firstname.lastname@example.org.