No­body told us our new house floods

The Dominion Post - - Your Money - Su­san Ed­munds

Q. We pur­chased our house in mid-May af­ter hav­ing com­pleted the ap­pro­pri­ate due dili­gence, i.e. build­ing in­spec­tor’s re­port, ex­am­in­ing coun­cil doc­u­ments, ask­ing ques­tions of the ven­dor (but not any about on­go­ing wa­ter is­sues), etc. Shortly af­ter we moved in, the garage flooded heav­ily and con­tin­ues to do so ev­ery time it rains. We are look­ing at tak­ing the pre­vi­ous own­ers to the Dis­putes Tri­bunal to pay for the work; we have en­gaged a pro­fes­sional drain­lay­ing and re­pair com­pany to un­der­take to cor­rect the prob­lem for good. We be­lieve the pre­vi­ous own­ers knew about this prob­lem (how could you miss a swim­ming pool in your garage) – and pro­fes­sional ad­vice would seem to back this up – but failed to dis­close it to their agents sell­ing the house, as the agents made no such men­tion of the prob­lem. We would prob­a­bly have still bought the house but of­fered a much lower sum to al­low for re­pairs. Is the Dis­putes Tri­bunal the best op­tion? The max­i­mum limit of the tri­bunal does not match what I’m hav­ing to pay but a rul­ing in my favour would help off­set the re­pair bill.

A. I asked the Real Estate Au­thor­ity for ad­vice.

‘‘If it’s some­thing the real estate agent couldn’t have known about, they wouldn’t be ex­pected to dis­close it,’’ a spokesper­son said. ‘‘In terms of re­dress/putting it right, they could start by try­ing to sit down with the ven­dors and work through a so­lu­tion. If that doesn’t re­sult in a help­ful out­come, then it sounds like le­gal ac­tion is the way to go. Col­lect lots of ev­i­dence – pho­tos of the prob­lem, any state­ments from neigh­bours who might have seen the flood­ing pre­vi­ously, ex­pert re­ports about the prob­lem and how long it ex­isted for. The cost of tak­ing a claim to the dis­trict court and po­ten­tial le­gal fees prob­a­bly makes the Dis­putes Tri­bunal the best op­tion as you rep­re­sent your­self, and fil­ing fees are rea­son­ably small.’’

Q. We moved into a brand-new house just un­der four years ago. The garage door opener stopped work­ing re­cently. We con­tacted the agents and they took it away. Af­ter a few weeks we were told the mo­tor was not re­pairable and we would have to buy a new one at just over $600. They say our war­ranty was only two years or 5000 cy­cles and we are four years and 7000 cy­cles. They now have a five- to 10-year war­ranty with 10,000 cy­cles. Is it rea­son­able to ex­pect a garage door opener to last four years? Or do we have to pay for a new mo­tor as the man­u­fac­turer states?

A. A garage door opener should last you more than four years.

Jes­sica Wil­son at Con­sumer NZ said you should not have to pay for a re­place­ment.

You can ar­gue that the Con­sumer Guar­an­tees Act re­quires that goods are fit for purpose – in this case, the mo­tor clearly was not. Ten years sounds like a much more rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion of life.

Q. We have a gas hot wa­ter sys­tem which de­vel­oped a se­ri­ous fault. The heat ex­changer started leak­ing, which meant that no hot wa­ter could be pro­duced. The unit is ap­prox­i­mately five years old and is cov­ered by a two-year all parts and labour war­ranty, with a 10-year parts-only war­ranty on the heat ex­changer. We have had the unit re­placed and been handed a bill for nearly $400. My ques­tion is, is this rea­son­able? If a man­u­fac­turer is will­ing to of­fer a parts-only war­ranty for 10 years, would the Con­sumer Guar­an­tees Act come into play for the labour por­tion as well? A. Wil­son says a gas hot wa­ter sys­tem should last longer than five years.

‘‘In this case, there’s been a ma­jor fault with the sys­tem and it ob­vi­ously wasn’t of ac­cept­able qual­ity. The parts have been cov­ered by the man­u­fac­turer’s war­ranty. But the con­sumer is also en­ti­tled to have the labour costs met un­der the Con­sumer Guar­an­tees Act.’’

Do you have a per­sonal fi­nance or con­sumer ques­tion you’d like an­swered? Email su­san.ed­[email protected]

123RF

If the flood­ing must have been ob­vi­ous, ask the neigh­bours if they can con­firm your sus­pi­cions.

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