Homeowners feel let down over shaking house as council passes blame to neighbor

Catherine Moen and David Dodds say it feels like an earthquake every time a bus or truck passes their Christchurch home.

Heavy vehicles crossing a patched section of road create shuddering that vibrates through the house. Cracks have appeared in the walls, foundations and lawn. The couple fear the whole property may have collapsed.

“It feels like a thump when you’re sitting in the lounge, or lying in bed upstairs. And it’s getting worse. Even in the earthquakes we didn’t get this,” Moen said. It was especially bad in their teenage son Alex’s bedroom, she said.

The family has lived in the Linwood house for 20 years, but the problem started only after that this winter’s sustained rainfall.

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Earlier this year, a water connection was installed under the road to serve a townhouse complex going up next to Moen and Dodds’ home. Before that, the council had dug up the road to do infrastructure work.

The couple do not know the source of the shuddering, but say it appears to come from the council’s road patch.

They contacted the council in September, which responded many weeks later, blaming the townhouse developer.

Council staff said the vibrations were caused by a failed trench installed by the developer’s contractor, and advised them to track down the developer to sort it out.

Catherine Moen wants the source of damage to her house checked out.  The city council has blamed the housing development next door.

CHRIS SKELTON/Stuff

Catherine Moen wants the source of damage to her house checked out. The city council has blamed the housing development next door.

Moen said they were at a loss about what to do now.

“Why can’t the council investigate? It’s coming from council infrastructure, it’s not on the private (townhouse) property.”

Even if the problem has been caused by the developer, the council should help them out, she said.

“We’ll have to get somebody to accept liability for it, but we don’t want to have to be involved in legal action. Will we need an engineer to have a look? That’s thousands of dollars.

Moen is upset her home's foundations and land have been damaged.

CHRIS SKELTON/Stuff

Moen is upset her home’s foundations and land have been damaged.

“They both need to come up with something.”

Dodds said the situation was unfair when it was not caused by them.

“This is damaging our home, our biggest asset. I just can’t see when it’s going to end.”

After lack of action from the council, Moen and Dodds got in touch with city councilor Jake McLellan, who told Stuff it was “not really good enough” that the council had not done more.

City councilor Jake McLellan says the council has not done enough to help homeowners Moen and Dodds.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff

City councilor Jake McLellan says the council has not done enough to help homeowners Moen and Dodds.

McLellan said the matter was initially misfiled by council staff, and the homeowners had been “mucked around” by the council.

“Even if it is the developer’s issue … the least we could do is follow up with the developers and tell them there’s a problem here.

“It’s pretty piss poor on our front.”

After visiting the property, McLellan agreed with the couple that the problem appeared to be coming from the council’s repaired patch of the road. It was interesting that the shaking had started after heavy rain, he said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some sort of void opened up under there.”

On Wednesday, Moen said road cones and a compacting machine had appeared on the street, but the contractors appeared to be in the wrong place.

“I think they’ve made a determination without any geotech investigation.”

Questions put to the council by Stuff last week have gone unanswered. They included why the council thought the problem was caused by a private development, whether the council was prepared to investigate, whether the council considered it had any liability, and whether it thought it was fair to tell the residents to sort the matter themselves.

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