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Appeal court backs demolition order on slab heave home

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Slater and Gordon has won an appeal launched by one of Australia’s largest residential builders against a Melton West couple forced to live in a substandard house for the past six years.

Earl and Shelley Softley’s house has suffered major structural faults due to footing and foundation movements following the use of a waffle slab during the construction of their house – a problem known as slab heave.

In December 2014, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ordered Metricon Homes to pay for the demolition and re-construction of the Softley’s house, removalists and rental accommodation.

The Victorian Court of Appeal today dismissed an appeal by Metricon Homes against VCAT’s ruling. The Softleys were represented in court by barristers Tim Margetts QC and Rohan Scheid.

Welcoming the decision, Shelley Softley called on Metricon to finally face up to its responsibility.

“All we wanted was a dream home, but what we ended up with was a nightmare,” Mrs Softley said.

“We worked hard, saved up our money to build a beautiful home we could be proud of and live in comfortably. But within three months of moving in, our house began to crack and fall apart around us.

“We did not cause the problem and we should not have been forced to live with it for so long.

“It has been a long and exhausting six years, but we feel vindicated.”

Slater and Gordon Associate Robert Auricchio said the building industry had again been put on notice about slab heave – a problem that has affected hundreds of homeowners throughout Victoria and interstate.

“It is time for the industry to review the extent of slab heave, to co-operate with homeowners to rectify the issue and to change design and construction practices to prevent a repeat of this disastrous problem.

“Consumers have faced an unsatisfactory situation and the economic viability of the building industry has been put at risk because of a failure by sections of the building industry to adhere to and enforce standards.

“Today’s decision sends a clear message to builders, engineers and building surveyors that they must take all precautionary measures against slab heave or pay the price.” 

Mr Auricchio said proposed legislation currently before State Parliament was an important step towards domestic building reform in Victoria.

“Slater and Gordon has been lobbying for change to the current framework for more than four years.

“The Building Legislation Amendment (Consumer Protection) Bill provides an opportunity for builders and homeowners to resolve matters without the need to commence legal proceedings in the first instance.”