Minister for Building Issues Clayton Cosgrove has announced a major shake-up of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service (WHRS) that will stop gaming of the system, hold building industry professionals to account and get leaky homes fixed faster.
“The WHRS was set up as a ‘call to arms’ to deal with a major problem, and although people have gained successful settlements so far, the service is too slow and is being drawn out by the lawyers and the experts.
“To speed up dispute resolution, there will be a new streamlined process involving pre-hearing conferencing, and time limited mediation before claims automatically move to adjudication,” Mr Cosgrove says. Objectives will be clearly set for adjudicators when exercising their powers, including using their investigative powers, to identify, refine and determine the issues in dispute between the parties.
“The assessment reports provided to all WHRS claimants will be beefed up so people can claim for probable, as well as actual, weathertightness related damage, and these reports will effectively become expert evidence, potentially saving claimants thousands of dollars by not having to get their own specialist reports.” “A new ‘class-action’ approach will be introduced to enable a body corporate to file a claim on behalf of multi-unit claimants, such as apartment owners.
“Better information, advice and guidance will be provided to all claimants by dedicated case managers so claimants are better prepared and more aware of the process. Consumer information will also be provided to home buyers so they enter, what for most is their biggest investment, well informed and with their eyes wide open.
“A new financial assistance scheme involving market rate loans and loan guarantees will be piloted for two years to help people in the very worst circumstances get their homes fixed first and argue liability second. Details will be announced once eligibility and other criteria are decided,” Mr Cosgrove says.
The WHRS reform package will cost $30.5 million over the next four years and, in addition, $7.1 million will be made available for lending assistance over the two-year pilot. “In developing these measures we have consulted widely with organisations, including the Leaky Homes Action Group, Consumers Institute, and building industry and local government representatives.
These measures are part of the Labour-led government’s suite of changes to transform the construction industry to ensure that homes are built right first time. “Everyone knows this is a heart-wrenching issue for ordinary Kiwis, and I am committed to sorting it out so people can get on with their lives.
New Zealanders are entitled to have confidence in the quality of their homes, and building industry professionals must be accountable for their work,” Mr Cosgrove says. Amending legislation will be introduced this year, and the changes are expected to be in place in early 2007.