My post yesterday about our demolition experience in Christchurch certainly touched a nerve – the comments, Facebook likes, retweets et al have shown just how important this is to people. I read last night another article which showed just how bad things ar e for some people. It seems that Chris Meyer, who owned a café in a building demolished after the September quake, had an even worse situation. The contract between the building owner and the demolition company gave the company the rights to salvage any material from the Manchester Courts property.
This is a standard approach with demolition contracts – the company performing the demolition has the rights to any salvage materials.
But here it gets far murkier. You see Civil Defence had deemed the building unsafe and hence the tenant, Meyer, was not allowed access to remove his own fittings and fixtures.. The demolition contractors therefore made off with the materials recovered from the building itself, but also those from the individual tenancies.
Meyer has since had to pay the demolition company to recover some of the materials, while others have been found for sale in other parts of the country.
There is a case here that I believe needs to be heard. As far as my Laws 101 training would indicate, at no point did title on tenants good move from the tenant – not to Civil Defence, not to the building owner and certainly not to the demolition company. As such, and notwithstanding any costs incurred in removing the items from the building )more on that later), the tenant has every right, as far as I can see, to reclaim those goods.
As for costs claimed by the demolition company, anecdotal evidence suggests that demolition crews were seen simply walking into the building to remove these goods, that being the case, the onus must surely fall on Civil Defence to determine honestly whether the building is unsafe to enter or not – if it is then both tenants and demolition crews should be held to the same standard.
This is a case that needs to be heard, I believe there is a barrister somewhere (as opposed to a barista, Meyer can fill that role) who would be prepared to take on this case pro bono. I’d be prepared to put up some cash to cover filing costs and disbursements. A precedent has been set in Christchurch for mandated looting, we need to right that wrong and protect the property rights of business and building owners. I believe there is a case to answer, by Civil Defence for not policing the disaster scene, by the building owner for not protecting the rights of his tenants, and by the demolition company who profited from the removal of assets they had no right to. Who’ll join this quest?