Couple fight for awarded damages from TV builder Dion South after dream home disaster

A North Shore couple has been awarded nearly $500,000 after a four-year dispute with a well-known builder.

One month on and builder Dion South is refusing to pay despite losing the civil case in the High Court in Auckland.

Brian and Clare Lee say they don't want anyone else to go through what they've endured.

The renovation was supposed to create their dream family home - but the Lees are going into their fifth winter basically "camping" in their unfinished house.

"The amount of hard times we had to go through as a family and winters that our kids were sick because our house was frozen while he was on TV," Brian says.

The builder, Dion South, is well-known for his appearances on TVNZ renovation show HOMEmade.

Four years ago the Lee’s say their builder walked away from a ‘fixed price guaranteed contract’.

Brian Lee hopes people will question fixed price guaranteed contracts for their home renovation, he says "it means nothing to the builders who will over charge us anyway, shows the real flaw in the system."

They took South's company to the Building Disputes Tribunal then to the High Court.

The High Court ruled South and South Development Limited should jointly pay the Lees $494,648.35.

But South says it is a "miss injustice" and says he will not be fronting up with the money.

He says it could happen to any "good builder".

This case highlights a gap in our laws. South didn't have insurance.

"You can have insurance but unfortunately I am an old school builder," South says.  

One organisation says the government and the building industry need to step up and make independent insurance compulsory.

Home Owners and Buyers Association CEO Roger Levie says consumers expect the system to protect them and it doesn't.

"It needs to be proper insurance and it needs to cover all of the people involved in the construction of the house," he says.

"What we have at the moment is a lot of people think they get an insurance policy and all they are getting is a warranty that only covers a builder."

Apart from insurance changes, Levie also wants an overhaul of the Licensed Building Practitioners structure.

"You can make a complaint but the outcome is likely to be a fine or a slap on the hand for the builder," he says.

Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa says: "The building and construction sector is not working very well."

The Building Act is under review right now and the public has less than a month to make submissions.

The Lees have run out of options and hope major changes to the Building Act will prevent situations like theirs from happening in the future.