Family's five-year battle for dream home still not won
IT'S the Aussie dream that has turned into a nightmare for a young Toowoomba family.
Robert and Priscilla Barton bought a partly-finished Rangeville house on Kite St almost five years ago, knowing full well they had some work ahead of them before they could call it home.
But what they didn't expect was to still be virtually homeless after years of legal wrangling and let-downs by the system designed to protect home buyers and builders.
Their property is a blight on an otherwise idyllic Rangeville street and the Bartons had planned to make it their family home.
But they have been left with an unliveable shell of a structure after they claim the Queensland Building and Construction Commission failed to come good on an insurance claim.
"We're living a nightmare that the QBCC could have fixed years ago - that it could still fix now," Mrs Barton said.
Mr and Mrs Barton had hired a Toowoomba builder to finish their half-built home they bought in 2010.
However, that contract broke down in 2012 at which time they lodged a Queensland Home Warranty Insurance Scheme claim under the QBCC.
Mr Barton said the QBCC told them they were eligible for the insurance in a letter dated September 2012 but after the builder appealed the decision in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the claim was put on hold.
Mr Barton said the QBCC told them it couldn't proceed with the claim due to the QCAT proceeding.
"We were just watching from the sidelines," Mr Barton said.
"We were told that we had no choice but to wait, and we thought the QBCC would eventually do the right thing."
Two years later, QCAT found the contract between the Bartons and the builder had been lawfully terminated meaning the Toowoomba family was not eligible for the insurance money to finish their home.
To further complicate the situation, QBCC director of insurance services Shane Wilson wrote that the QCAT proceedings did not prevent the insurance claim.
"To find out that the QBCC could have just got on with it back in 2012 and then to be told - after years of waiting, renting, living with relatives - that now they can't help us basically because of their own delay, it's a disgrace," Mr Barton said.
They claim the QBCC has failed them and will now turn to the State Minister for Housing in an effort to have the matter resolved.
However, QBCC acting commissioner Kellie Lowe said the body had not failed the family but followed the rulings from QCAT, which the Bartons could appeal.
"The QBCC decided that the Barton family had lawfully terminated the building contract and accepted the claim for their incomplete work," Ms Lowe said.
"A claim for incomplete work can only be accepted where the property owner has lawfully terminated the contract with their builder.
"The builder exercised his right to challenge the QBCC's decision in (QCAT) and ultimately the matter was decided through QCAT's appeal process.
"QCAT found that the Barton family had not lawfully terminated the contract."
Ms Lowe said that decision meant the family was "not entitled to an insurance claim" and as such it was declined.
The Bartons said selling the property would leave them at a loss and they can't afford the repair works which a contractor estimated to be worth more than $300,000.
"They say all these great things on their website, that their purpose is peace of mind and that their vision is to be recognised as the best and most respected regulatory service provider in Australia," Mrs Barton said.
The Bartons have since engaged independent legal representation and will appeal to the State Government to review the situation.