The blame game
In January, the project manager answers the phone.
“In October, the Builder told me he had consents and engineers reports to lift your home” he said.
“Did you call the Council to check?” I asked.
“No. I believed him. The Builder lied. I issued a notice of unsafe lift in November 2013” he continued. “we’ve had similar problems with the Builder at other sites”.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” I asked.
“There is a whole process to go through” he said.
“You told the Loss adjuster” I said.
“Yes” he said.
“When” I asked.
“October” he said.
The Loss Adjuster knew the lift was unsafe in December when he had told me everything was ok.
“What was unsafe?” I asked. This is news to me.
“Your home should’ve been braced as it wasn’t properly supported. It could have fallen on anyone working on the foundation beneath in another earthquake”.
I am horrified. The builder had let his staff work under our unbraced home for months.
“Why didn’t you terminate the builder’s contract?” I asked.
“Too much paperwork” he said.
There is a long silence.
“I have issued a notice of non-conformance to give him 3 months to rectify his work” he said.
“Cancel the contract immediately” I said.
“I can’t do that” he said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“The contract is between you and the builder” he said.
“You are our agent and acting on our behalf. I’m instructing you to cancel the contract and to tell the builder to stop” I said. He would not.
I called the Loss Adjuster. I instruct him verbally and in writing to stop the work. He would not.
We are at a loss. No one is following our clear instruction.
E-mails are flying around everywhere. Eventually our Loss Adjuster sends us a form letter called a termination notice to sign and to cancel the contract.
It is as simple as that.
It is not that simple.
Even with the Termination notice, the Project Manager gives the Builder a chance to correct his work.
Our Builder carries on being incompetent.
He cuts holes in our intact rimu floor to allow his staff to stand while they dig our foundation by hand. The men are recent immigrants from Fiji, India and Somalia and speak little English.
It is at least another month before our home is braced.
Our Builder pours metal 1m deep onto incorrectly installed piles, then compacts it a little bit. Our home is lowered onto 12 piles in 3 rows imbedded in a 1.8m deep trench of reinforced concrete covered by compacted metal half a metre deep.
Parts of our home are not supported.
The foundation looks nothing like the plans.
As the Builder did not meet the requirements of the notice of conformance, our notice of termination is issued. The Builder now had another month to correct the incorrectly corrected incorrect work.
Good money continues to be poured after bad.
Common sense seems to have vanished.
Calls to our Loss Adjuster and Claims Manager go around and around.
We call the Residential Advisory Service (RAS), a free legal service that had recently been established through Community Law.
There is a 3 month waiting period.
We call lawyers. They have conflicts of interest as they are acting for the Project Management Company or the insurer.
Lots of questions arise about who was responsible for the builder. The Insurer says because we chose the builder, and signed a contract with the builder, we are responsible for the poor work, and it is nothing to do with earthquake repairs, they can’t legally do anything.
We say the Insurer asked us to choose a builder, and the project management company endorsed that choice by ensuring that he had the credentials to undertake our repair. The insurer under our policy is our agent acting on our behalf. We relied on the project manager checking that key milestones, such as consents occurred, and to ensure that the builder followed plans.
There is no doubt that the builder was negligent. The issue becomes whether or not the project manager acted in a timely way, and his degree of accountability and responsibility. The responsibility keeps coming back to us for decisions we never made.
There was nothing in our contract that was unusual. Many other people were in the same position as us. Insurers were just playing the blame game and trying to limit their risk. It’s what they do. Delay, deny, defend and never ever admit liability.