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A "dripping time bomb" is how a Palmerston North building inspector characterises a largely unseen problem he says is about to impact the city's housing stocks.

Steve Brown is worried that a new generation of leaky homes constructed during the 1980s will affect homeowners, emotionally as well as financially.

Brown said he had seen evidence that deterioration and damage of these houses, caused by age, wear and tear, inadequate maintenance or ad hoc renovation, was undetected or not dealt with. 

Unsuspecting buyers were at risk of being duped by quick patch-ups and cosmetic makeovers disguising problems. 

"I know of at least four leaky homes that have been on-sold to buyers who are none the wiser."

One of the causes of leaky-home syndrome was that too many homeowners were not aware of ongoing home maintenance requirements, he said. Good paintwork was the first line of defence against the elements.

Many owners were not aware of the damage tiny cracks in the cladding could cause, allowing water

Some of the cracks are almost invisible to the eye, but a moisture meter can detect signs that all is not well.

Work by DIYers or contractors installing satellite dishes and aerials, electrical wiring, plumbing, retro-fitted wall insulation, and even decks and railings involving attachments to a house can compromise watertightness.

Brown wants to know why there is a moratorium on compensation for leaky homes after 10 years.

"Typically, houses start to show symptoms after that time. That's scary, because after 10 years, no-one can be held responsible, and the owners get stuck with the repair costs."

These can be significant. On a compromised house, the cost of repairs,  including meeting building regulations, can reach over $250,000.

Brown said houses with multiple claddings were at increased risk because they expanded and contracted at different rates. This could cause cracks.

A shortage of housing stock could be contributing to the problem, as buyers' options were limited.

The June 1 edition of BRANZ Build backs Brown's concerns, saying New Zealanders are lagging behind in caring for their homes and that maintenance deferred or delayed can be costly.

Source: Stuff

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