Couple furious at lack of punishment after celebrity builder's dream home disaster

Celebrity builder Dion South has been banned from building for six months after leaving an Auckland family's home like a tip.

His clients are furious - but South claims he's the victim.

Clare and Brian Lee hired South - from TVNZ renovation show HOMEmade - five years ago for a renovation aimed at creating their dream family home.

They initially paid him $331,000 - and claim they ended up paying another $115,000. When South asked for another $55,000, according to the Lees, they refused to pay - and he walked off the unfinished site.

After spending nearly $500,00 on the renovation, the Lees are still living in a construction site.

"It's been pretty hell for the last four years," Brian Lee told Newshub.

"I have lost my inheritance over this and he has taken it away and broke it all and I've been working my ass off to put it back together."

The Lees are going into their fifth summer practically "camping" in their unfinished house.

"It's a hazard for our kids... our daughter [has been] living here like this since she was one - I have to check for nails and broken glass and broken parts every time she goes outside."

The Lees took South's company to the Building Disputes Tribunal, where the adjudicator ordered him to "complete all outstanding work". He refused.

They then took him to the High Court. They won that too in 2019. Just last week the Licenced Building Practitioners' board found South's work to be negligent and incompetent and said he should be disciplined.

As South is bankrupt, the board felt he would be unable to pay a large fine. So it suspended South's building licence for six months, meaning he can't work at all without supervision.

However, South maintains his innocence, telling Newshub that he was manipulated by Lee. 

"I have been absolutely shafted by Brian Lee. It's such a shame that there are people like him in this world," he said via text, declining an interview.

"Lee has 100 percent sabotaged and used me as a scapegoat. I was manipulated by Brian Lee to give a fixed price quote - his build had a lot of variations and this is what made the costs go over budget. I have been robbed by this man. I have lost thousands - well over $100,000, I want nothing to do with him."

The Lees are also unhappy with the Board's decision and plan to appeal.

"There needs to be some actual punishment so that they realise they have done something wrong," Clare Lee says.

They say it's now up to the Government to enforce harsher penalties for builders when things go wrong.