Business

High-end Canberra builder Rod Sheather goes bust

Rod Sheather Consultants Pty Ltd, an award-winning Canberra boutique building company, has collapsed owing local suppliers and subcontractors individual debts of up to $65,000 each.

Mr Sheather said the ACT Planning and Land Authority's failure to lift in a timely fashion restrictions imposed on his building licence in the wake of a dispute with a customer had directly contributed to the collapse of his business and the loss of more than a dozen full-time equivalent jobs.

Fairfax sought comment from ACTPLA on Mr Sheather's claim on Monday.

The family-owned business has been trading in the ACT since 1999 and lists awards and award nominations dating back to 2006 on its website. It was placed in the hands of liquidator Frank Lo Pilato of RSM Bird Cameron following an uncontested hearing last Thursday.

Mr Sheather said the collapse of his company would not leave a string of unfinished properties in its wake.

"There will be minimal impact on customers," he said. "I don't anticipate any home warranty insurance claims; our business had been reduced to a trickle."

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The notice of application for a winding-up order had been lodged on September 8 by Harry Kay of Goodman Law. Mr Kay was acting on behalf of Tiling Impressions in Fyshwick, which is reportedly owed $65,000.

Tiling Impressions first lodged a winding-up application against the company to recover money owed on March 17, 2014. That application, which had been due to be heard 10 days later, was withdrawn after a confidential settlement was reached.

Mr Sheather said the company's problems began two years ago when he sold a home he had built to a member of the diplomatic community. Water entered the building after a heavy rainstorm and a dispute then arose over the rectification work involved.

ACTPLA become involved and restrictions were placed on his building licence.

"I couldn't [do building] work and I couldn't sign contracts," he said. "Even after the rectification work was carried out it took another three months for the restrictions to be lifted."

Housing Industry Association regional executive director Neil Evans told Fairfax that on learning of the licence restrictions the HIA had launched its own investigation to determine if Mr Shearer had breached its code of conduct.

No evidence of this came to light and, as a result, no action was taken to expel Mr Shearer from the HIA.

"He satisfied the criteria for membership [of the HIA]," Mr Evans said. "He was licensed as a builder by ACTPLA and he was not insolvent."

Mr Shearer said the licence restriction, which stopped him from working as a builder and prevented him from signing contracts for new work, killed the business.

"My full licence wasn't restored until last December," he said. "I've always had about eight jobs on the go and aimed for turnover of about $6 million a year. "Last year our turnover was $1.6 million; I tried to keep the team together but as the cash flow dried up we had to let our people go; even our own son."

Mr Shearer is upfront about going broke during the "recession we had to have" back in 1992 when interest rates were in the 15 to 20 per cent range.

"A lot of others [builders] went broke at that time too," he said. "But this is different and it could have been avoided. I know a lot of people aren't going to have much sympathy but I feel like we have been done over."

Rod Sheather Consultants operated successfully in the high-end bespoke section of the market over many years.

It took out the Housing Industry Association awards for home of the year and renovation projects of the year in the open, over $450,000, $150,000 to $250,000 and up to $150,000 categories in 2011.

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