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A Victorian Home Building Disaster

Seven years on and the nightmare still hasn’t ended for the Zaitsevs. Watch a Today Tonight story from February 2016. 

Or read Adam Carey’s insightful article published in The Age:

‘Defective work’ investigation into surveyor
Date October 13, 2011
Adam Carey

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A despairing Boris and Lana Zaitsen stand outside their shell of a dream home in Caulfield North. Photo: Joe Armao

INVESTIGATORS looking into a shoddily constructed luxury house in Caulfield North will check if the project’s building surveyor knowingly approved defective work.

Boris and Lana Zaitsen, of Murrumbeena, have spent $1.2 million on a two-storey townhouse that has been left half built for the past year, because they refuse to pay a $198,000 progress payment for a house that is defective.

Efforts to resolve the dispute through negotiation or to order the builder to finish the job have failed. The Zaitsens claim they have evidence of collusion.

The builder, Grigory Trunov, is now threatening to take the Zaitsens to court if they do not meet the payment in the next 10 days.

The Building Commission audited the property in July and found serious defects. The house’s building surveyor, Jim Tsaganas, of Nicholson Wright, is also being investigated by the Building Practitioners Board.

In emails seen by The Age, Mr Trunov pleads with the surveyor to approve the frame stage before he runs out of money.

”I really need certificate for passed frame inspection today as my clients would not pay progress claim without it,” he wrote on October 8 last year.

The email followed an inspection report, dated September 27, 2010, in which the surveyor did not approve work on the wooden frame. On October 13 the surveyor approved the frame, in an inspection report backdated to September 27, the same date he had previously knocked it back.
Lana Zaitsen said the emails and reports indicated ”collusion” between the builder and surveyor.

However, Mr Tsaganas said the backdated report was simply a ‘‘typo’’. Another certificate was issued later that day with the correct date.

“The frame inspection stage was approved. The standard of work was satisfactory,” Mr Tsaganas said. “The Building Commission’s consultants have viewed it and we haven’t caused the issue.” Much of the frame is today irreparably rotted due to exposure to the rain since the project shut down.

The Building Commission would not comment on the case other than to say it “has been working closely with all parties involved in the dispute”.

“The Building Practitioners Board will not comment on ongoing inquiries; this allows for natural justice to take its course,” Building Commissioner Tony Arnel said.