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Courts are the best forum for resolving weathertight homes disputes - December 2009

Courts are the best forum for resolving weathertight homes disputes

 

The decision of the High Court in White v Rodney District Council and Others confirms the view that we have expressed to clients for a long time that if they have a substantial claim for the costs of repairing a leaky building and they have solvent defendants (such as Councils or architects) to sue then they are better to bring a claim in the civil jurisdiction of the District or High Courts rather than with the Weathertight Homes Tribunal, (“WHRT”) the specialist body set up by the Government to deal with such claims.  The White case judgment which was released on 19 November 2009 was given extensive coverage in the media.  The case was an appeal from the Weathertight Homes Tribunal where Justice Woodhouse doubled the level of damages awarded by the Tribunal to the Whites, the owners of the leaky home.  The Tribunal had reduced the damages available to the Whites holding that they were contributory negligent in not taking adequate steps to mitigate their loss.  However the High Court overturned this finding on appeal holding that what the Whites had done to mitigate the loss was reasonable given their limited financial means. 

 

The High Court also increased the amount of general damages awarded to Mr & Mrs White from $5,500 to $25,000 each. 

 

The High Court confirmed the adjudicator’s decision that this was not an exceptional case where he was able to award the Whites their legal or expert costs. 

 

Summary

 

As this decision shows the level of damages being awarded to leaky home owners in the WHRT is generally less than that being awarded in the civil jurisdictions of the District and High Courts.  In addition, successful parties in the WHRT are not able to recover their costs.  Accordingly, one needs to ask if you have a substantial claim, with solvent defendants and a good chance of success why would you bring your claim in the WHRT? 

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