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Fair Go: May 25

Published: 6:59PM Wednesday May 25, 2011 Source: Fair Go

"Over the top" inspectors
Reporter: Gordon Harcourt
Podcast: There are no rules for the house inspection game

House buyers want one with all the bad stuff, house sellers want a glowing one, and real estate agents want one to help the deal to go through. They're house inspections, property inspections, or builder's report as they used to be known.

There are hundreds of people offering the service, but no rules they have to follow.

And a recent ruling from the Real Estate Agents Authority lifted the lid on an open secret in the game - a real estate agent was telling her buyers not to use a particular company because she thought it was "over the top". She even had a contract clause excluding that company.

Toxic row

In Wellington there's an increasingly toxic row between various agents and one inspection company, RealSure Ltd.

RealSure says agents try to talk customers out of using RealSure, and we've got the covert recordings to prove it - "over the top", "very pedantic", "scare the buyers", "cover their arse more than they will make a call on something" said agents to a buyer who recorded the conversations.

RealSure is damming about the house inspection game in general, and so is the Building Surveyors Institute. It told me there is "a culture of cheap surveys by poorly qualified inspectors who provide tick the box type surveys for peanuts".

Standard compliance

There is a NZ Standard for Residential Property Inspection (NZS4306:2005) but it's not compulsory. Lots of inspectors claim to be compliant, but that isn't necessarily the case. For example, professional indemnity insurance is mandatory for

compliance. That's cover for things like loss from negligent advice, but that insurance is hideously expensive and a lot of inspectors don't have it.

Minister for No Comment

We wanted comment from the Building & Construction Minister Maurice Williamson, but his office wasn't helpful. After a couple of weeks of asking, an interview declined and then a promise of a statement, his office finally told me to talk to Consumer Affairs.
And I formed the strong impression he and/or his office didn't give a stuff about this topic.

Our advice

- Get in writing that the inspector is NZS4306 compliant
- Ask if they have professional indemnity insurance
- Check the Building Officials and Building Surveyors sites for lists of qualified or accredited people
- Check Consumer Build for good information on what to look for (Search for "property inspection")
Finally, remember it's a VISUAL inspection only. If it can't be seen, it won't be in the report.


Exploding Glass Tables
Reporters/producers - Emily-Jane Brown, Hannah Wallis, Briar McCormack

Podcast: After reports on Fair Go of exploding glass tables from all round the country - retailers are making moves towards introducing a glass safety standard.

Several weeks ago, Fair Go ran stories about exploding glass-topped tables. Turned out these glass tops have been shattering round the country. Our campaigning viewer Di Hill, who told us about the first table, was concerned that the same type oftable was still being sold, and that consumers weren't being warned that some imported glass tables were not fit for purpose.

We've been checking out some of the major retailers with a glass expert - to see what they are selling, and whether retailers are providing adequate safety and other information with the tables. The expert's report is below.

Meantime, good news for the consumers - retailers are making moves towards introducing a glass safety standard.

The Retailers Association tells us it's developing a voluntary code, and it's talking to the Consumer Affairs Ministry about a product safety standard for all glass top tables. We contacted the retailers mentioned in our survey:

Mitre 10 says it supports development of NZ standards, as does Harvey Norman, and it's drafting standards for Harvey

Norman stores. Placemakers says it welcomes any measures to ensure better safety standards and prevent accidents.

Bunnings says it would look at any proposal for better product information. Briscoes doesn't think a voluntary code is needed - it says its current policy serves customers well.

The glass inspector's report is below - check it out especially if you've got a glass table or are shopping for one.

The following is a key point observation of 8 retail shops selling indoor and outdoor furniture and shower screens.

Most outdoor tables tend to use thin (5mm) tempered patterned glass

Many outdoor designs are similar with a aluminium frames perimeter and glass located from the underside with clamps, so the class is not fully supported

Tables with central umbrella holes all had plastic inserts fitted - but with no instructions

One table had painted glass and UV glued to legs in the corners - it was thin glass for a large table and a salesman tried to say it was glass on a painted metal frame and you could stand on it.

Most tables had a sticker indicating "Tempered glass", no stickers indicated the glass was "safety glass", no laminated glass was used

Some internal tables had normal annealed glass and some had no information on glass type or thickness

Most internal tables had "Tempered glass" stickers, but some internal tables had "Tempered Glass" permanent markings

Some stickers had letters or codes that may indicate the manufacturer, but in not one case did the manufacturers name appear or any reference to any international standard

Some external tables had "Product Warranty" stickers which were electrostatic and easily removed. No internal tables had any warranty information The stickers talk about Tempered glass and/or Toughened glass - but do not mention Safety Glass.

Some good guidance was provided on care and handling and advising damage may cause spontaneous shatter.

The 12 month warranty did not cover for glass replacement - so what use is it ?

Some advertising material had the glass thickness and that it was tempered glass, but this was not common

There was no reference to any international Standard or other form of compliance document

Summary : Firstly it is important for the consumer to know if the product is fit for purpose. But they don't know if the glass is: Correct thickness, Correct type, Safety glass, Compliant with any form of Standard or Code, Glazed/installed correctly, Covered by warranty
The biggest issue is the consumer may not know what Tempered Glass or Toughened Glass is and that Toughened Glass is not necessarily Toughened Safety Glass. Tempered glass is an American term and toughened glass a British term for the same thing.
Since no Standard exists in NZ for furniture glass, only GANZ (Glass Association of NZ) guidance notes, the manufacturers and supplies can do what they like.

Hybrid V Lawnmower
Reporter: Alison Mau
With petrol prices jumping around, how can you reliably save money on your everyday motoring costs? Are Hybrids the way to go? And are they as underpowered as rumour suggests?

The experts Fair Go interviewed say despite recent falls, petrol prices are likely to rise in the long term and stay high, but information you can trust on fuel efficiency is hard to find.

Editor of the Dog and Lemon Guide, Clive Matthew-Wilson, claims the figures the Government uses on its website are out by between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, don't relate to real world driving conditions, and are supplied by the manufacturers.

The manufacturers agree they supply the figures but claim the tests are legitimate and they stand by the figures.

We asked Mathew-Wilson and motoring writer and fuel efficiency expert Don Anderson, whether buying a Hybrid car was a smart choice. Both agreed Hybrids have good fuel efficiency if you're a town dweller who's only travelling in stop start traffic.

On the open road, Matthew-Wilson says, they don't give much benefit at all. Both Honda and Toyota now give an 8 year warranty on new Hybrids, and batteries are designed these days to last the lifetime of the car, so battery replacement cost is not the big issue it used to be.

We were able to bust the myth that Hybrids are underpowered - by inviting racing lawnmower driver Barry Dawe for a drag race. The Hybrid won (but it was close over the first 60 metres!)

We found in some case a diesel car could be the best choice for fuel efficiency, but New Zealand's road user charges, where small-diesel car owners pay the same as much bigger vehicles, eat into the cost savings.

And we found there are lots of ways to save petrol without changing what you drive, by changing the way you drive. By keeping more distance between you and the car in front, you'll use your brakes less and brakes are the enemy of fuel efficiency, says

Anderson. You can also: keep your tyre pressure at recommended levels, keep the car light by emptying your boot, and even turn off your engine at red lights - some of the ways you could save up to 30 per cent on your fuel bills every year.

Lotto - Unlucky 7?
reporter - Hannah Wallis
We check out a Lotto players complaint that there is something very wrong with his "lucky" number 7.

Jim Hool wants to know why for the last 68 draws his "lucky" number 7 hasn't come up at all. Jim found that several other numbers came up a lot, some not that much, and 7 not at all. He asks - how can that happen, and is 7 actually unlucky? .

AUT statistics lecturer and consultant, Dr Robin Hankin, uses lotteries to teach his maths students all about probabilities and randomness.

He showed us that Jim was right, number 7 hasn't been coming up at all in Powerball draws.

But by plotting out how the next 40 draws might turn out, he said the chances of a specific number not coming up are 1.4% and the chances of any of the 10 numbers not coming up it is 14%. So anyone's so-called "lucky" number, can in fact, have an "unlucky" streak. It would be much more unusual, he said, if each number came up exactly 4 times, in 40 draws.

Robin says randomness is everywhere and laws and axioms that are true for lotteries are true in lots of other areas of our lives.

He says humans though, often prefer to see patterns in life, rather than randomness, because that's just the way we are - that's why we think we have lucky numbers - because we remember the times that number has been lucky, not all the times it hasn't .

Robin says it makes no difference if you pick the same numbers every week, or whether you buy a ticket every week or a couple of times a year - your chances are exactly the same - the probabilities re-set with each draw.

If you go for random selections of numbers rather than selecting specific numbers like birthdays, you have no more chance of winning, but if you do win - your chances of not having to share the prize will be greater. That's because more people are likely to share specific date-based numbers, than those getting truly random numbers - and birth day and birth month numbers are limited to 1-31 and 1-12 so the variability's are not as great.

For more on randomness and patterns, and how statistician Dr Robin Hankin actually figured out the chances of getting an "unlucky" number - check out our extended webpage interview.

Lotto tell us that there's a lot more info about facts and stats at this website: