Calls for urgent changes in building regulations as family home demolished
The mother of a disabled woman is calling for urgent changes to be made to building regulations in Australia following the demolition of their brand-new, purpose-built home. 24-year-old Paige was left with severe brain damage as a child after a hospital mistake, and was awarded $5.5 million in compensation from Queensland Health four years ago.
Part of that money was used to build a home that would meet all of her needs, but after less than a year of living in their new Redcliffe home, the house had such a severe mould problem that it was decided it had to be demolished.
Paige’s mum, Linda Hartman, told A Current Affair that the situation has caused her and Paige severe stress, but the minister responsible, Mick de Brenni, won’t agree to meet with them to discuss the issue.
A Current Affair initially met the family when they were attempting to dry the moisture in order to keep the mould at bay, but those attempts failed, and the only remaining solution was demolition.
Ms Hartman told reporters she was relieved that the entire building, including the concrete slab, had to go, as it meant she wouldn’t have to deal with the builder anymore. "I'm quite relieved because now I don't have to deal with the builder because dealing with the builder it was just horrific.”
The builder in question was PJ Burns – the director Rick Burns admitted to ACA that there were problems at the property and that he was “going to fix them”. In early March, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) identified the cause of the mould as "rising damp through the slab due to faulty installation of the damp proof membrane" and found that Burns had failed to rectify structural defects, ultimately deciding that the "demolition and rebuilding of the dwelling" was "reasonable and necessary".
QBCC approved a claim of $200,000 under the Queensland Home Warranty Scheme, which was less than a third of the actual cost. The trustee of Paige’s settlement money has now commenced legal proceedings against PJ Burns, as well as finding a new builder, with the hope of having a new home ready for the family by Christmas 2022.
"The builder has to be held accountable for what he has done to us and I don't want this to happen to anybody else," Ms Hartman told ACA. Ms Hartman believes that QBCC’s lack of action “ruins people’s lives”. She believes PJ Burns’ work is so bad that it should be listed as Tier 1 defective work, which would result in an automatic three-year ban. Ms Hartman feels like the QBCC is “protecting the builder”, while the QBCC claims it is “empathetic to [her] situation” and that its officers have “worked continuously to keep her updated and informed during her case.” A spokesperson for the regulator said, "This builder has been subject to regulatory action and may be subject to further regulatory action in the future.”
Mr de Brenni said in a statement that the QBCC had been in regular contact with Ms Hartman, and his recommendation is that homeowners check the QBCC website before hiring a builder.
Images: A Current Affair