Last updated¬†22:17, September 4 2018
Two couples are abandoning their dream homes after their dealings with an architectural designer who drew up ‘unbuildable’ homes hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget.
The couples met David McLeod at the Nelson Home Show in 2016, and say they were impressed by his professionalism. However, after frustrating delays his company Project Architecture went into liquidation in June.¬†His current¬†liquidator has referred his case to the Companies Office.¬†
McLeod is currently exhibiting at the¬†Auckland¬†Home Show,¬†promoting his new company, DM¬†Architecture.
Tony and Kate Dyer¬†invited McLeod to view their Tasman district¬†section and paid him $3450 upfront. “He said he could do a lot for us, and that he had a vision,” Kate said. “We were stoked.”
The couple had budgeted $450,000 for the build, which they had raised by selling their home and moving in with Kate’s mother.
They gave McLeod leeway to create a design that worked with the section. “That was a mistake, but we had never worked with an architect before and we didn’t know.”
It took a year for the architectural designer to produce a first draft, with the couple paying McLeod $1800 monthly. They began to grow concerned.
“I’d ring every month, and each month we were told, it was coming.
“I had a one year old and a very difficult pregnancy while this was going on, and we had no idea it would drag on like this.”
When the Dyers finally had their design priced by McLeod’s subcontracted engineers, the projected costs came in at $725,000, $275,000 over budget.
McLeod apologised, telling them he would amend the design at no cost. However, they would need a new contract, he said.
“It said, ‘I will fix your plans for you, only if you sign this contract that says you will use my building company to build the house,” Kate said. “If not, you will have to incur the cost of fixing it yourself, which is $14,000’.”
The couple refused to sign, and McLeod stopped answering their emails.
At the end of May, the Dyers’ lawyer Nigel McFadden told McLeod he was in breach of contract, and he had seven days to repay his clients.
Three days later, McLeod liquidated Project Architecture and his building company, Project Homes.
In July, McLeod set up his current company, DM Architecture Ltd.
The Dyers had paid McLeod¬†$22,000, and another $9000 on reports and engineering at his instruction.
The Dyer family is¬†living with Kate’s mother with no money to build or buy and a section they might have to sell. Their lawyer told them it was unlikely they would recover their money, as¬†McLeod has a list of creditors.
“We just want to make sure he doesn’t get away with hurting anyone else”.
Liquidator Brenton Hunt said he was dealing¬†with the “latest round of McLeod’s liquidations”, and had raised the matter with the Companies Office.
Hunt said McLeod’s companies stood out,¬†and he was frustrated that McLeod was allowed to continue trading.
Another Nelson couple said they were impressed with¬†McLeod’s ideas. “We asked if he would be able to build for our $400,000 budget, and he said absolutely.”
However, after signing a contract with McLeod, the couple had doubts when the project was beset with delays.
“We decided he was a poor operator. Chaotic. At one point we were at our wits end.”
They received another blow when McLeod, who had signed the couple up for design and build, said he couldn’t build their home.
“There was no explanation.”
The couple contacted four builders about the project, but none would commit to¬†their budget. One estimate was¬†$572,000, which included $55,000 worth of steel supports, since the wooden supports McLeod¬†had designed would not have worked.
“It was completely unbuildable,” they said.
The couple paid McLeod $22,000, but estimate their loss at more than $100,000 due to delays, a fast-moving property market and rental payments.
The ordeal took a toll on their relationship and health, they said.
“I have been really ill with it: I’ve got ulcers, anxiety, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. I’m 72, I should be looking forward to a good 20 more years, not worrying about this.”
Like the Dyers, they will need to sell their section, and are hoping to buy a property.¬†
The couple felt for the Dyers, they said. “My heart goes out to them. We have been screaming at each other, we’ve been so stressed. We can only imagine what they’ve gone through.”
Marion van Dijk
McLeod sent Stuff a brief statement, saying¬†while he agreed budgets were “all important”, there were factors that made projects over budget.
He said there was “no intent on doing anything illegal,” and that the second contract with the Dyers was “recording the agreement¬†about the cost recovery for the second set of drawings.” He said his clients “appear to have agreed” to the contract at the time, since the process carried on.
McLeod said he had completed more than 200 successful projects and said the Global Financial Crisis was responsible for some his 2009 liquidations, while his recent liquidations were due to the “staff and systems” in his Auckland office.
Chair of Architectural Designers New Zealand (ADNZ) Julie-Ann Ross said McLeod was not a member of the professional body.
ADNZ’s code of ethics stated members should keep clients informed about costs,¬†timeframes and the scope of services, she said.
Ross recommended anyone engaging an architectural designer to find someone who is a member of a professional body.
Auckland Home Show
McLeod is exhibiting¬†at the Auckland Home Show this week under the banner of his current company, DM Architecture, which he incorporated in July. However, the Auckland Home Show website links to Project Homes, the building company McLeod put into voluntary liquidation in June.
Exhibitions & Events NZ (EENZ), who runs the event,¬†is also listed as a creditor on McLeod’s latest liquidation report.¬†
EENZ¬†general manager Amanda¬†Magnus said it was “impossible”¬†to investigate each company’s background.
“However, if we do get a visitor complaint, we investigate. Should the complaint be justified we ban that company from all future shows.”
Magnus would not comment further about McLeod’s outstanding debts¬†with¬†EENZ.
The Dyers, who met McLeod at the Nelson Home Show, which is run by another company, said they were surprised that the architectural designer could continue to exhibit. “We are disappointed to hear the home show is putting profit before the best interests of its visitors,” Kate Dyer said.
The Auckland Home Show began on Tuesday and will run until Saturday. The website says the event, held at the ASB Showgrounds in Epsom, features more than 500 exhibitors, and invites visitors to “meet the leading renovation and designs [sic] experts.”