Sinking Houses Follow

Reporter: Mark Gibson

First it was Secret Harbour now, from Bassendean, to Parmelia, homeowners have had enough. Since our story on Monday night, we've been flooded with photos right across Perth, homes are cracking, sinking, falling apart.

Among them, Leon's place."And then it goes all the way along this side, through the floor here, through the tiles and then you can see ity comes down between the door frames there as well and then it carries on down into the next room. All the way through the house. All the way through"

The cracks at Leon Myers' Bassendean home are terrible now but he's pretty sure the problem started when the house was built 17 years ago. "I had a bit of an argument then with the builder, the sales person had told me that it was going to be level, the block, to the neighbour's level as well, which it wasn't."

Before you build, if the sand isn't level or compacted properly or, later on, if the moisture content in the soil changes it can spell disaster for your biggest investment. Leon says "You've got to make sure that your foundations are right, everything goes on top of it, so if you're not aware of it, get some expert help."

"How bad can it get? Your house can be condemned, it can get that bad." Steve Lewenhoff from Foundation Engineering says most developers and builders do the right thing.. but some have a lot to answer for. "There is a problem for the builders that seem to come and go because they're always looking for the cheapest alternative and they're not necessarily around so they don't want to take responsibility and they leave people carrying the can."

It might start as human error but mother nature plays her part. "With the lack of rainfall you get shrinkage, the house settles to that and then it rains or the moisture content in the ground increases therefore everything starts to swell."

At James Massey's place, a big retaining wall seems to be causing the problems. First it was the outside wall, now the house is cracking up inside. The Parmelia home is only two years old. "I'm just thinking that maybe the land wasn't settled enough before the house got built it had all the approvals from the engineers but we've still got these problems and I want answers." James has another problem an old, termite-riddled Jarrah tree. "I had tree surgeons come out and they told me that it's over 300 years old and when the retaining walls were put up in the area they had to chainsaw the roots and that's killed the tree." The young father says no-one wants to help, from the developers to the local council.

James's local MP, Roger Cook. "Young families they buy into these sort of developments should be able to do so with confidence that these walls and these sort of landscape features will actually stay on into the future."

Steve Lewenhoff says if cracks start to appear at your place, you should:

record what's happening in a diary, take photos, find out about the history of the house. Has there been excavation, extensions, or construction work nearby? And contact a specialist engineer. Because it can be very costly. In newer homes, insurance can help but not always. Leon says "I did have lifetime insurance on this property with HIH and that company went bust."

James says "I've asked the council and I've asked developers where to go with it, they both don't want to claim responsibility for the issue, I've just been worrying myself sick over it mate."

For more information, contact Foundation Engineering or visit: www.fondex.com.au