Lower value leaky home claims to be fast-tracked

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Building and Construction Minister Clayton Cosgrove has announced another step in getting better outcomes for those affected by leaky homes, with the establishment of a $20,000 ceiling for fast-tracked Weathertight Homes Resolution Service claims.

Mr Cosgrove says claims under $20,000 will now be considered lower-value, and will be managed through a new streamlined WHRS claims process. This process will encourage fast resolution of claims informally through negotiation and mediation within set time frames.
If settlement is not reached then an application can be made to the new Weathertight Homes Tribunal for adjudication based on the papers, unless a hearing is needed.

Mr Cosgrove says the new process means faster dispute resolution and lower costs.
“I have heard of lower value claims where the costs from lawyers and experts can exceed the cost of repair, so these reforms will help ensure a quick settlement so people can get their homes fixed and get on with their lives.”

However, he says all claimants, regardless of the size of their claim, would benefit from the introduction of time-limited mediation to stop parties from dragging out the claims resolution process.

The Minister also announced that from April 1, 2007, claimants will be able to get a new comprehensive assessor report that will include potential as well as actual non-weathertightness damage repair costs.

The fees for a full assessor’s report are $500 for individual home owners and $1500 for representative claims from multi-unit complexes. There will be no cost for an eligibility assessment report.

“New WHRS claimants and claimants yet to be decided eligible will be able to get these new beefed up assessment reports that can be used as expert evidence during the claims process,” Mr Cosgrove says.

The Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Act 2006 passed in December 2006 will help owners of leaky homes settle their disputes faster, hold those responsible to account, get compensation from the liable parties, fix their leaky homes and it will also enhance consumer protection for home buyers.

Other key measures in the Act include:
 the establishment of a new Weathertight Homes Tribunal,
 better information, advice and guidance for claimants,

 the opportunity for a class action approach to multi-unit claims such as those for apartments and terraced townhouses, and
 the requirement for territorial authorities to place WHRS notices on Land Information Memorandum (LIM) reports.

The new Act and regulations will come into force from April 1, 2007.