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House troubles

Published: 6:02PM Wednesday July 14, 2010 Source: Fair Go

Reporter: Hannah Wallis

Young couple Coralie and Michael Cowie bought their first house in Dobson, West Coast, South Island, a couple of years ago, after talking to the owners and the real estate agent, and getting a valuer's report.  

They believe they were told that the property had a septic tank, and had been repiled.  This was also what the valuer said too.  

Two months later, a terrible smell alerted them to sewage leaking onto their lawn. They looked out for the septic tank, got a plumber in, and found there was no sewage system in place - the effluent was piped into the storm water system and eventually out to the Grey River.   They've since also found that the house hadn't been repiled either - some piles are missing, some are propped up by bits of wood, some are railway sleepers and some are not dug into the ground. The floors of their house are really wobbly.   So it's an unhealthy and unsafe environment and it's going to cost them around $30,000 to fix.

They asked Fair Go to try and help them get compensation from the various parties involved, and that negotiation is on-going.   The couple also wanted their plight on Fair Go to warn others - particularly first home buyers - about getting the right information before buying.   They did get a LIM  - Land Information Memorandum - from Grey District Council - which showed no consents had been given for a re-piling job, and that no information was held on a sewage system - both of which would have been red flags, if the couple had known what to look for.

The Council's top five tips for checking out a property are:

Don't just get a LIM - ask Council questions about it; find out how water is going in and coming out of your place (includes sewage), Check for consents and compliances and check the legal rights (boundaries, easements etc) Finally make sure you get a building report.

We also asked local builder to check over the Dobson house

Sam's top tips are:
Check under house for piles, insulation, plumbing; check every room for floor movement, buckling and so on; check for damp, mould, sticking windows and doors (all signs of water damage); check roof outside and inside the roof cavity if you can get in - looking for leaks, insulation, and any rodent damage to wiring; and finally Sam says you must do your own independent investigation and not rely on anybody else's word.