Nobody told us our new house floods
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]
If the flooding must have been obvious, ask the neighbours if they can confirm your suspicions.