'We should have no mortgage': Dawesville couple forced to sell retirement dream

DEVASTATED: Retirees are among the victims of disgraced Perth builder, M3 Building and Construction. Photos: Shutterstock.
DEVASTATED: Retirees are among the victims of disgraced Perth builder, M3 Building and Construction. Photos: Shutterstock.

A Dawesville couple have been forced to walk away from their retirement dream after losing what they say was more than $200,000 to a bankrupt building company.

Rhonda and Ian Findlay are among the victims of disgraced Perth builder, M3 Building and Construction.

Its director Marco Marusco wasfined $8,000 by the State Administrative Tribunal last fortnight for deceiving clients and not properly managing projects.

The fines related to the Findlays and two other clients, who had all contracted the company to build houses in Golden Bay.

'We should have had no mortgage'

"This was our retirement - everything we had saved for," Mrs Findlay said. "It should've been finished and complete with no mortgage, we had enough cash."

But with all the money they had lost they couldn't afford to stay in the home they had worked for "their entire lifetime".

"We ended up with a mortgage - we couldn't retire and keep that house at the same time."

We ended up with a mortgage - we couldn't retire and keep that house at the same time.

Last June they made the hard decision to downsize so Mr Findlay could retire from his FIFO supervisor job.

Their move into an existing home in the old part of Dawesville was bittersweet.

"We couldn't face building again, so we're renovating instead," Mrs Findlay says laughing - it's taken her a while to get her sense of humour back after the traumatic ordeal. "We thought we would buy one that's been standing a while."

We thought we would buy one that's been standing a while.

Mrs Findlay retired from her nursing career during the Golden Bay home building.

"You couldn't work and manage this at the same time," she said.

'A disgrace'

Clients were left reeling after M3 Building and Construction was handed a "pitiful" fine while they lost thousands.

"The $8,000 is a disgrace in comparison to the heartbreak and troubles caused," Mrs Findlay said.

"This man should not be allowed to be involved in any sort of work connected to the building trade. He knowingly lied and cheated his way through the whole charade from beginning to end.

This man should not be allowed to be involved in any sort of work connected to the building trade.

"There were so many problems with the construction - a great big gap in the hallway, walls in the wrong place, twisted walls, pillars that were bent. The list goes on and on, you have no idea."

The Findlays finally managed to persuade Rockingham City Council to take steps and eventually a Stop Work Order was placed on their home.

But their building insurance only covered up to $100,000 for damages and bad workmanship.

"This came nowhere near what it cost my husband and I," Mrs Findlay said.

"I believed the system would truly work and he would be held to account for not only myself but other clients involved in one way or another, however he has walked away with a pittance of a fine and basically a smack on the wrist."

Before signing their contract to build, the Findlays wanted to see properties built by the company and Mr Marusco provided a list of addresses, including so called "high end homes", but none were actually built by the company, it was later revealed.

The Findlays and several other Mandurah families viewed the homes and were so impressed they went ahead with signing the contract.

But they say there were major problems with the build from the beginning - the list of defects is too long to list.

Two-year ordeal

A group of M3 Building and Construction clients, including the Findlays, met to discuss similar problems they were having after connecting online in 2015.

"For us it was our retirement dream, designed by us. We were $220,000 out-of-pocket and that was only us.

For us it was our retirement dream, designed by us. We were $220,000 out-of-pocket and that was only us.

"We spent two years fighting to get it built properly and we eventually got a brilliant local builder. By the time it was finished it was probably the best built house in WA."

The four bedroom home on Peelfold Glen sold for $950,000 last year.

Defects at sites

During mediation, Mr Marusco admitted his actions had caused the company to breach the Building Services (Registration) Act.

The disciplinary action by the Building Services Board also involved Mr Marusco's failure as a director to ensure that the company's building projects were properly managed and supervised, resulting in a large number of defects at the sites.

"This was due in part to the directors not establishing robust systems and ensuring arrangements were in place to adequately manage and supervise the projects," according to a Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety statement.

"Another contributing factor was the company not allowing its nominated supervisors to have effective control of the building services carried out on the sites."

There was also a period of about six months in early 2015 in which the directors allowed the company to continue construction without a supervisor, the statement said.

Inspections of the sites found numerous issues: installation of incorrect materials, unapproved deviations from approved plans; non-compliance with applicable building standards; unacceptable building practices; poor workmanship; and many defects not detected and rectified in an efficient and timely manner.