Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What sort of remedial work will be needed?

This question has been asked hundred times whenever a cladding defect or issue is shown up in an inspection report, specially in the background of monolithic type wall cladding.

We can be relatively relaxed when talking "verbally" regarding various alternative solutions and possible ball park figures. But when being specifically asked "officially", it might be not that easy to give a clear answer. Here are some of the reasons why we can be quite struggling in giving a clear answer:

  1. I may simply not know the right solution how to remediate the cladding defects. That is so understandable during a pre-purchase inspection stage, when in reality, we might only allocate a few minutes for the subject defect which got mentioned in the report among hundreds of other issues. You may think that I'm not competent. But even when I carry out defect investigations, a particular defect may take me days or weeks to workout why it can go wrong or is it really wrong, before even start to think how can we get it right. 
  2. Different client may have totally different expectations regarding how far a remedial work need to go. Simply stop leaks by squeezing a tube of silicon? Or tape it so it won't leak for a couple of years? or retro-fit a piece of flashing so it won't leak for a while? or check if any damaged timber need to be replaced? or replace any damaged timber and also redesign the cladding junction so it will never leak? or more funny question: what about if we think it leaked, but it did not?
  3. What about if different Council officers or different Council divisions may have different requirements in terms of what time of remedial work can be consented? Some Councils may simply reject issuing consent for any target repair works for direct fixed monolithic wall cladding, but other Councils may be relax with what so ever you what to do. 
  4. What about if no designers and contractors are willing to take care of any target repair works for direct fixed monolithic wall cladding? By the way this is the reality when everybody got enough workload. 
  5. What about if no consents can be obtained from neighbors within the crosslease property? Do other neighbors have to give you the consent?
  6. More importantly, no defects exist in isolation. Most defects within a building are some how related directly or indirectly. Solution simply can not be given to any single defect without considering the background of the whole building or the whole complex. 
We are sorry to discuss this topic, but it is terribly true that we can not give you too much information regarding any remedial solution in terms of monolithic cladding defects in the background of pre-purchase non-invasive visual inspection. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A significant case to be followed

See the following new on Herald for some background:

Leaky home owner has 'arguable case' against seller

Can also see the case summary listed on High Court website for a clear picture:

Edwards v Cull [2014] NZHC 1556 (1 July 2014)

The case has just kicked off and yet to have a long journey to go, can easily drag years to finalise. There are 13 respondents involved, including the previous owner, real estate agent, builder, engineer, inspectors, and of course Council. 

Here is the simplified summary of the case process up to date:

The current owner Edwards bought the St Helier's "concrete" house back early 2011 from the previous owner Culls, which showed a positive inspection report produced by Dwell Healthy Homes (Dwell) during marketing of the property. Being impressed by Dwell's report, Edwards have engaged another inspector Chris Underwood, which has found some high moisture spots and recommended further invasive inspections. Chris's report was challenged by Dwell, which indicated to Edwards that Chris is not competent. Some how Edwards decided to trust the previous owner's inspector, went ahead to the auction and bought the house, which found 2 years later to be seriously leaking and needs some 700k for repair works. 

This first stage court decision has found that: Edwards have got some solid stands to sue the previous owner Culls, even though the "positive" report is not produced by Culls, and Culls never had any clue the house was leaking. While this has got nothing to say that Edwards will win the case, this case is worth to be seriously monitored as it may become a floodgate from the following aspects:

  • Vendor may be liable for a cosmetic inspection report showed to potential buyers during marketing stage;
  • An inspector producing a cosmetic report for a vendor may become liable for potential buyers;
  • Vendor may be liable for opinions given by his/her real estate agent and inspector;
  • Councils may be liable for concrete leaky buildings, which leaked, but may not be suffering structure integrity issue.
There are going to be some more related hot topics such as:
  • How to judge which inspector is competent for doing inspections?
  • Which inspector can be relied on, the Vendor's or the Buyer's?
  • How the Joint and several liabilities in a more complicated background can work (All 13 respondents are "Live"). 
The case can also remind some arguable concepts:
  • Who said post 2005 houses would be safe?
  • Who said cavity based houses would be safe?
  • What said Limitations and Disclaimers will make inspectors safe?
  • Who said concrete house will be OK?