Wherever you look in Phillip Kapeller and Rachael Cesnik's house there is work.
A structurally unsound deck estimated to cost $100,000 to fix, water leaking from the bathroom into a wall cavity, defective brickwork, sub-floor ventilation missing, no laundry, exposed wiring, half-finished plumbing, gyprock glued to brick walls and particle board as flooring.
Not one room in the four-bedroom house is finished.
The file of defects is so large that one builder who came to assess the house assumed it was a block of flats.
Another told the couple the best way to solve their nightmare was to bulldoze and start again.
After almost five years, countless hours battling debt collectors, solicitors and the bank, more than 12 court appearances, untold anxiety and lost family time, the Gillieston Heights couple have won their case against the company responsible for the dodgy work, BH Australia Constructions, previously known as Blissful Constructions.
But the couple admit it's a hollow victory.
In January, NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) Senior Member David Goldstein ordered BH Australia Constructions to pay the couple $191,366 "immediately" for incomplete and defective works.
The company was also ordered to pay the couple's court costs.
But BH Australia Constructions, fronted by Daniel Roberts and Shashanth Shankar Tellakula Gowrishankar, has not paid a cent.
A Newcastle Herald investigation revealed in November last year that the pair are linked to numerous building companies accused of leaving a string of construction and financial disasters across the Hunter.
Dozens of people - including homeowners, tradies, developers and suppliers - spoke to the Herald, alleging a host of defective or incomplete work and unpaid bills causing nightmares for unsuspecting homeowners and businesses.
Many have lost money - claiming combined debts into the millions - after their dealings with companies associated with the pair.
In late 2018, Supreme Court Justice Robert McDougall - ruling in a dispute involving Mr Shankar and Mr Roberts against another Hunter family - said there was "very strong evidence" the pair were "structuring their affairs in such a way so as to avoid, wherever possible, paying their liabilities".
"It is open to infer that they have engaged in the well-known but opprobrious practice of utilising phoenix companies: consigning insolvent companies to the fires of liquidation, and creating new companies to arise from the ashes and take their place," Justice McDougall said.
Mr Kapeller, who ran out of money and was forced to represent himself in his legal battle against the pair that stretched from NCAT to the Supreme Court, back to NCAT and then to the District Court, said his family "only just" escaped bankruptcy.
"We're still fighting debt collectors and trying to pay bills," Ms Cesnik said.
"We'll never get our money back or the time we lost with our kids. It's been an absolute nightmare."
In comparison, the outcome for BH Australia Constructions, whose sole director and shareholder is Mr Shankar's wife, Aarthi Dhandayutham, was "absolutely nothing".
No fines, no banning orders, nothing.
Despite being ordered by NCAT and the District Court to pay the couple $191,366, plus legal costs, BH Australia Constructions simply took no notice of the rulings.
Time and again, almost weekly, the company ignored increasingly desperate advances by the couple to settle the matter.
The silence paid off, as Mr Shankar and Mr Roberts knew it would.
Eventually, after enough time passed following the final court ruling, the company's refusal to act triggered access for the couple to make a claim under home building compensation (HBC) cover, formerly known as home warranty insurance.
After five years fighting the builder, the couple was left with no choice but to claim through the NSW government insurance scheme, designed as a final safety net for home owners to guard against incomplete or defective building work.
Home owners can make an insurance claim if the builder has become insolvent, died, disappeared, had their licence suspended or failed to comply with a court order.
In 2018, more than $200 million of taxpayer funds was used to prop up the HBC insurance fund.
Mr Kapeller said it was blatantly obvious that the people behind BH Australia Constructions were "well aware how to game the system".
"They get to walk away scot-free and we're left with not enough money to finish the house and we're going to have to do a lot of the work ourselves," he said.
"We won the war, but we lost a lot of battles along the way and it's cost us a huge amount of money."
Amid the chaos, Mr Shankar and Mr Roberts have moved onto a new venture for themselves, a multi-million dollar development under construction at Abel Street, Wallsend.
The 3480-square-metre property was purchased in June 2017 by BH Australia Constructions for $1.35 million. The site was sold about a year later for $400,000 to another related company called Abel Street Developments.
Mr Shankar is the director of Abel Street Developments and he and Daniel Roberts are listed as the shareholders.
According to a development application approved by City of Newcastle, there are plans to build 20 attached two-storey dwellings at a cost of more than $2 million.
Ms Cesnik said the system was "broken" and not designed to help "everyday, ordinary people".
"It's unbelievable how they get to just walk away from this and move on to the next project," Ms Cesnik said.
"There is no justice in any of it, despite the fact that we actually won. They're smart, they know the loopholes and they know how to work the system."
Despite findings against it, and several strongly worded NCAT decisions that made reference to BH Australia Constructions conducting its case "in a way which has severely disadvantaged" the couple, the company has not paid a cent.
In March, NCAT Principal Member Kim Rosser described how BH Australia Constructions changed lawyers on multiple occasions, repeatedly sought adjournments and extensions and Mr Shankar and Mr Roberts filed contradicting affidavits in an effort to deny liability.
Mr Roberts was also summoned to appear before NCAT and failed to attend.
"This matter has had a tortuous and unfortunate history," Principal Member Rosser said.
Mr Kapeller said for an agency whose guiding principles are "to facilitate the just, quick and cheap resolution of the real issues", NCAT had repeatedly failed his family.
He said the whole experience was summed up by an exchange with Principal Member Rosser during a directions hearing over the telephone in a conference call with the builder's lawyer Tim Brook, of DWF, late last year.
During the hearing, Mr Book was granted an extension of time because his firm had failed to provide evidence by the due date, in contrast to Mr Kapeller - who with no legal training and working full time - had lodged his submissions on time.
Mr Kapeller said time and again the builder did not follow the tribunal's orders and walked away unscathed.
"There is no justice in any of it," he said.
"If NCAT ruled properly in the first case we wouldn't have had to go through all we did.
"Other people probably would have given up because it's just too hard and costs too much money, but we were going to lose everything so we had to keep trying."
The family initially lost in NCAT, then won on appeal, before BH Australia Constructions appealed to the Supreme Court.
Adding to the woes of the already beaten couple, out of money now, Mr Kapeller - an instruments technician - was forced to start representing himself.
At the same time, the family's financial situation went from bad to worse when their former lawyers, Roberts Legal, started debt collection action due to unpaid bills for the previous proceedings.
The law firm filed a statement of claim in the Local Court and Mr Kapeller had to represent himself where he agreed to enter into a consent judgement, which allowed the family to make instalment payments.
When the family won, Roberts Legal served them with further invoices for the cost of pursuing the debt and included several thousand dollars interest on the bill.
"We had to beg them to at least forgive the interest as I didn't think they should profit from our situation, after several emails back and forth they agreed to forgive the interest," Mr Kapeller, who lost his job in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said.
Mr Kapeller eventually won at the Supreme Court, which opened the door for him to relist the matter with NCAT.
It was heard again earlier this year and the couple won.
"It's not much of a win, but it's something," Mr Kapeller said. "There is just not enough protection for people, it's only the lawyers who win."
It's estimated up to $400,000 is needed to finish the house and repair defects.
Home building compensation insurance claims are capped at $340,000.
In addition, the couple has spent more than $160,000 in legal and professional fees, $60,000 renting, $90,000 in mortgage payments and years of their lives fighting the claim.
Ms Cesnik estimates that through no fault of their own, they are $400,000 out of pocket, while the people behind BH Australia Constructions have walked away unscathed and the public has been forced to pick up the tab for the insurance claim.
"If there was some kind of penalty for the company and the people involved we would be celebrating," she said.
"But to go through all of it and at the end they are off operating a different company, it's just not right.
"The whole system needs to be overhauled."
The couple thanked Matt Pitman, of Plumblec, and Nobby Kitchens for providing services at heavily discounted rates.
Mr Pitman was not paid for his work by BH Australia Constructions at the start of the job, but agreed to come back and finish the project so the family could get the house certified.
Nobby Kitchens offered the couple a large discount and the kitchen designer donated her commission on the job.
The Newcastle Herald reported in November that Mr Roberts and Mr Shankar had launched Future Tooth, Australia's "first dental stem cell storage company".
The company's website claims children's teeth stem cells can "be used for" cancer, spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and a host of other serious illnesses.
The company claims that "dentists around the country have recommended Future Tooth dental stem cell services to their patients".
But the Australian Dental Association has warned against storing teeth, describing dental stem cell banking as unnecessary and unregulated.
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