Episode 29 : October 13 | FAIR GO | TV ONE | tvnz.co.nz [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Episode 29 : October 13
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Scooter saga
Reporter: Greg Boyed

The question is, what is it?

A toy? A Vehicle? A moped?

The answer: kind of, no, and apparently.

It's the question Nelson teen Jeremy Prentice - Brizzell has been asking himself since he was pulled over for riding his electric powered scooter on the footpath and pinged for breaking the law.

So realistically, how closely can that law be followed?

We tried to find out.

Buying a kids scooter from an Auckland toyshop we set about to make it roadworthy or prove what a folly the law was.

The first step of getting a registration and number plate was taken with almost indecent ease.

The only slight hassle over filling out the new registration form was 'what is the cc rating of your vehicle'. CC rating is the cubic centimetre or the capacity of a combustion engine the scooter has an electric engine. But the folks at the AA were willing to put 'wattage' in instead of CC rating and we were away with a number plate and registration.

Next step; a warrant.

We kitted the now registered scooter out with a headlight, tail light, mirrors and number plate and off to the testing station we headed. It was there we ran into an obstacle and some common sense. According to 'On Road New Zealand' if something is less than 50cc and can't exceed 50 k per hour it's not a vehicle, it's a moped so doesn't need a warrant.

The next challange was a race.

Dozens and dozens of people wrote in wanting to know how the law viewed mobility scooters. The short answer is the law says no helmet, warrant, registration or drivers licence is needed for these. Which is odd, considering they are bigger, more powerful and faster than the ride on kids scooter.

So armed with that baffling knowledge we did the decent thing. We organised a race.
Our newly kitted out scooter, a mobility scooter and someone walking briskly lined up for perhaps the slowest motor race in the history of the world. The result?
Walking at a reasonable pace left the mobility scooter in the dust.
While the ride on scooter that started this whole sorry story came a sorry and slow last place.

Auto auctions update
Reporter: Simon Mercep

Fair Go returned to its story of Kylie Dumbleton, who was left out of pocket after dealing with a business called Auto Auctions, in the Auckland suburb of Mt Wellington.
In February Kylie took her car to sell at auction. She said she was told her Toyota Levin sold for $1500, but she never got her money and Auto Auctions went out of business soon after.

Fair Go was unable to contact owner Quinton Marchione at the time. We did find that he had run another auto auction business at the same address a few months before Kylie's dealing with him. This business had gone into liquidation.

With the help of viewer feedback, Fair Go contacted Quinton Marchione and arranged an interview.

He said he didn't know about Kylie's problem, but would pay her when he could. He said he was no longer in business. Quinton Marchione said he hadn't closed the business to hide from creditors, but because of other issues that had arisen in his life.

In the wake of our first report, Fair Go heard from Stephen Bennett of Waipukurau. He'd gone to the Disputes Tribunal after the engine seized in a car he bought from Auto Auctions. The Tribunal ordered Auto Auctions to pay three and a half thousand dollars, but Stephen said he'd never received the money.

Quinton Marchione said he didn't know about the Tribunal ruling. He wanted to examine the court ruling and said he would pay Stephen if he had to.

Fair Go also spoke to Auto Auctions customer Nicola Gavey, who said she'd bought a car because of a promotion offering free return air tickets to Australia. Nicola said it wasn't explained that to use the tickets she needed to purchase accommodation at certain designated hotels.

Quinton Marchione said the conditions were spelled out in a brochure, but Nicola said she wasn't given that until after her purchase.

Fair Go will monitor how Kylie and Stephen progress in their disputes with Quinton Marchione.

Note: this story is only about a business called Auto Auctions which was based in the Auckland suburb of Mt Wellington. It does not concern other businesses with similar sounding names elsewhere in the country.

Body corporate battles
Reporter: Jacquie Hudson

More and more of us are going to be living in high density housing in the future, around half a million in Auckland alone by the year 2050.

2050 is a long time away but the apartment owners we've talked to feel it might take them until then to sort their problems out.

It's all because of a company called Strata Title Administration and its director Michael Chapman-Smith. He owns a company used by apartment owners, to manage their body corporate funds - that's the money they put aside for the maintenance and upkeep of their buildings.

The body corporate's from Tuscany Towers, Waterford Apartments, Ponsonby Crest all say that besides Michael Chapman Smith being difficult to deal with their main complaint was not getting enough information about how Strata Title Administration was spending their money. They say when they requested information it was usually ignored.

So they all called an Extraordinary General Meeting or EGM and everyone voted Strata Title Administation and Michael Chapman Smith out of their body corporate.
The body corporates invited Michael Chapman-Smith to attend their EGM's but he didn't show and maintained the EGM's were illegal. They say he didn't return calls and didn't hand over their money and files to their newly appointed body corporate management company.

Although the apartment owners didn't want him running their body corporates it was very difficult to get him to step down. Our apartment owners say Michael Chapman-Smith uses his own set of rules to manage body corporates, which he is legally entitled to do, but it's because of those rules it is very difficult to get rid of him if problems occur. They believe he's got his own interests at heart because clauses in their body corporate rules provide him with all the power. Their only option under the law was to go to court.

Tuscany Towers took Strata Title Administration to the High Court. In their case, although the judge found Michael Chapman Smith was still technically secretary, Strata was obliged to hand over Tuscany Towers financial records and money. But Tuscany Towers say when they tried to get the money and records off him he never returned their calls. Recently Tuscany Towers body corporate was sent a bill from Strata for tens of thosands of dollars in legal costs

Waterford apartments went to the Disputes Tribunal to try and get their records and money back.  Michael Chapman-Smith's lawyer arrived at the hearing with a paper saying he was serving all the owners for their body corporate fees and that it now constituted a court case in the District court. The case was later thrown out of the District Court on technicalities but Waterford Apartment owners don't want to spend any more money fighting in court.

Garden Grove in Tairua also say they can't afford to take it through the courts and that court costs will eat up the $10 000 that is owed to them. 

And as for Ponsonby Crest well they tried to take things into their own hands by going down to Strata Titles offices requesting funds and files. They sat in his office for at least 3 hours thinking they were at a resolution before being handed a tresspass notice.

In response Michael Chapman-Smith stresses the laws governing body corporates are extremely complex.He says Strata is scrupulous about following these laws and this may be at the heart of tonight's complaints.

Here's Strata's main points:
-it runs hundreds of body corporates with thousands of owners.
-in any large group of owners there'll be disgruntled people.
- Strata gives owners a manual explaining how the body corporate works.
- rules are usually amended since the original rules set out in the unit titles act are over 30 years old and don't cover the needs of modern complexes.
-Strata provides detailed financial accounts.

As for the individual cases we've covered tonight, Michael Chapman Smith says :
-All four body corporates received audit certificates and financial accounts, as required by the Unit Titles Act and the Body Corporate rules.
-Tuscany Towers and Strata have agreed on arbitration, so no money can be paid until this has taken place.
-Garden Grove's case was referred to court, so no money can be paid until the court's ruled.
-Solicitors from Ponsonby Crest and Strata agreed to a handing over of money and records in August, but Strata's solicitor hasn't heard from Ponsonby Crest's solicitor since then. Letters have gone unanswered.
- Strata holds no funds for Waterford body corporate. Strata does not understand this complaint.

Owners believe Michael Chapman-Smith is just trying to bog them down in legal arguments and technicalities. Fair Go asks why can't their cases be solved simply and cheaply? All of the people we've spoken to say the stress and cost they've gone through over this is horrendous. They still say the financial accounts they received from Strata were not detailed enough.
We'll keep you up to date with this story.

At the moment there's no agency overseeing body corporate companies, just an outdated unit titles act and the courts. But the government's reviewing the Unit Titles Act, and that should be out in a couple of weeks. So get yourself a copy and have a say before it goes to parliament.

NOTE: There are lots of similar sounding businesses. We are talking about Strata Title Administration Limited in Auckland only.

Team Tips

One viewer's learned how not to use a spray on oven cleaner. She had tin foil in the bottom of the oven, which reacted with the spray, and started to smoke. So please check the instructions on the can.

If your car's ready for the scrapyard, remember to fill out de-registration forms and send in your old plates to the LTSA. The  LTSA De registers your car after a year anyway. But if they don't hear from you they'll bill you for the year it wasn't officially de-registered.

Using your cellphone overseas?.
Remember - you'll be billed overseas rates - for both the calls you make and the calls you receive. One viewer's been stung for nearly $500. Ask your phone company to bar phone calls but not text - So where you would've paid, say, $4 a minute for calls, you pay only 80 cents for text messages. 

And if you're about to get into a Body Corporate, why not check first whether other owners are happy with the company involved. Maybe get a copy of the last meeting's minutes, and a copy of the body corporate rules.

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