New hope for leaky home owners

Leaky home owners are invited to join a class action against a cladding manufacturer. Supplied photo.

Leaky home owners on the Tauranga City Council's leaky homes register are offered new hope this week with the Court of Appeal decision opening the door to a class action against cladding manufacturer James Hardie.

There are 223 claims on the Tauranga city council register of leaky homes claims and the total paid out on them by the Tauranga City Council so far is $6.85m

The register includes potential claims or closed claims that the city council has been notified of under the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Act 2006.

Tauranga City Council has also been served with proceedings outside of the WHRS and has currently four active claims. 

The update on the register comes as leaky home owners are offered another opportunity to re-coup losses, a class action lawsuit against cladding manufacturer James Hardie.

Leaky home owners who have received no satisfaction through the council process have until January 30 to join the class action.

A judgement released this week declined James Hardie's leave to appeal to the Supreme Court meaning the Court of Appeal decision stands, allowing the claim to proceed as a class action, with a final opt-in date of January 30, 2018.

They claim nherent defects in cladding systems manufactured by James Hardie, and that James Hardie made misleading statements in its technical literature.  Because of the allegation that a large number of homes are affected, the leaky home owners sough and were granted orders to be able to bring the class action.

All owners or previous owners of properties using the relevant cladding systems who are already represented or who in future elect to opt in can be included.

Leaky building owners represented by Wellington law firm Parker & Associates are encouraging people to move quickly.

“We are dealing with a large number of enquiries, many from people who have seen and are responding to the claim for the first time,” says the group's lawyer, Dan Parker.

“A number of owners have approached us unaware of any problems with their properties until expert investigations identify issues. They have subsequently joined the claim. 

“We will be pushing forward now to deal with owner enquiries and to get as many owners signed on as possible. As it is a self-funded action, the bigger the group is, the lower the costs per owner.

“The opt-in period will be the last chance for most affected owners to pursue any legal action for recovery of their losses.  If they join during the opt-in period they will not be affected by a 15-year limitation longstop that will probably otherwise bar claims after the opt-in period expires.

“Also the Supreme Court confirmed last year in the leaky schools litigation that the 10 year Building Act limitation longstop does not apply to a product liability claim like this,” says Dan. 

The group first brought a product liability claim against James Hardie New Zealand Limited and James Hardie company, Studorp Limited, in negligence and for breach in the Fair Trading Act in 2015.

Owners allege that leaks in their homes are attributable to inherent defects in cladding systems manufactured by James Hardie. They also claim James Hardie made misleading statements about its cladding systems in its technical literature. James Hardie denies the allegations.

Thousands of properties were built using Harditex from 1987 until the early 2000s. Titan Board was widely used from 1995.

Owners of monolithic clad buildings constructed since 1987 using Harditex or Titan board are urged to get in touch to find out how to opt in to join the claim. Experts can be arranged to investigate whether the materials in question have been used and whether damage has resulted. 

For further information contact Parker & Associates, 04 499 0390, www.parkerandassociates.co.nz.



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