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October 9, 2017 | by  | in News |
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No real options for redress

Major flaws in a number of Wellington buildings have been revealed through the work of a Wellington surveying company, indicating that they are unlikely to withstand a major earthquake.

Surveyor for Helfen Limited, Thomas Wultzer, stated that issues with building design and construction are prevalent in a number of buildings around Wellington.

The Building Act 2004 provides that if a building was constructed more than ten years ago, inspectors or builders cannot be held liable for failures in design or construction that make a building potentially unsafe. This means that tenants and owners of some buildings that have not been safely built do not have legal avenues to pursue to remedy these failures.

Wultzer said that, in his surveying experience, it is “rare that we don’t find major issues in buildings that we survey” in Wellington. For example, the frame of one building surveyed was not connected to structural beams, meaning the building would be “extremely prone to collapsing sideways” in an earthquake.

VUWSA President Rory Lenihan-Ikin was concerned that these findings impact heavily on student accommodation.

“No student should have to worry about their house falling down around them, and the Wellington City Council and national government should be looking at ways to speed up the assessment of buildings and any subsequent repairs.”

Salient reached out to the Wellington City Council to discuss the issues, but they had not responded by the time of print.

According to Wultzer, the buildings most likely to be affected are low-cost housing — “it’s likely that corners will have been cut” in those areas, and for tenants in affected buildings, “there are no real options for redress.”

Lenihan-Ikin agreed with Wultzer. “The unfortunate reality for a lot of students is that there are already limited housing options which are cheap, and where landlords feel comfortable renting to young people. This means they are often left with poor, or downright unsafe, housing options.”

“We encourage students as they head out into flat hunting season to read lease agreements carefully and make sure they’re asking safety questions of the landlord from the get-go.”

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