Further measures to strengthen the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service (WHRS), enhance consumer protection, hold building industry professionals to account and get leaky homes disputes settled faster through mediation and adjudication have been announced by Building Issues Minister Clayton Cosgrove and the Courts Minister Rick Barker.
The measures, which will benefit claimants and potential home buyers, include:
• requiring territorial authorities to place WHRS notices on affected property files, and to make that information available on Land Information Memorandum (LIM) reports,
• changing the voting thresholds to make it easier for a class action approach to be taken by owners of units within apartment blocks,
• setting statutory time limits on mediation,
• enhancing the power and authority of adjudicators, including new offence provisions for failure to comply with a witness summons and intentionally disrupting proceedings, and • establishing a new specialist Weathertight Homes Tribunal administered by the Ministry of Justice (although assessment and mediation will remain with the Department of Building and Housing).
“Placing a mandatory flag on the LIM report increases consumer protection by informing home buyers whether a house has been subject to a claim,” Mr Cosgrove says. “The establishment of a voting threshold will mean that a small number of ‘holdouts’ in multi-unit complexes cannot stop a class action claim being filed.
“And limiting mediation to 20 working days for low value and general claims, and 40 working days for multi-unit complexes will reduce delaying tactics and provide clear incentives for parties to act in good faith.”
Mr Barker says enhanced powers for adjudicators would also help reduce gaming, and enable them to take an active, investigative approach when hearing cases. “The administration of the new specialist tribunal by the Ministry of Justice is a natural fit, and means claimants can be assured of the new tribunal’s independence,” Mr Barker says.
Mr Cosgrove says work will now start on drafting a Bill to give effect to these changes, and he expects these measures to take effect from early next year, once legislation is passed.