Send us your questions or share your experiences.

Rodent damage

In June, I went into the bathroom and noticed I couldn’t open the bathroom door right up and thought part of the floor had risen slightly. Then, a few days later, I noticed floorboards had risen slightly in an area by the dishwasher in the kitchen. Then I noticed a part of the floor outside the bathroom was very soft. I panicked, thinking water must be coming from somewhere. My partner looked under the house and heard water, so I rang a plumber to come and inspect the property. I got in touch with the insurance company, and said I would fill in a claims form and would be in touch when the plumber let me know what was going on. The plumber informed me mice had gnawed away at piping along the water pipes. He replaced and fixed it all but now I’m left with all the inside damage. Do I have any chance of making a successful claim? A MEMBER

Yes – we think you have a chance of making a successful claim. According to your insurer’s policy, direct damage caused by rodents isn’t covered, but the resulting damage is. That means you can’t claim for the leaky pipes, but you can claim for the spongy floorboards. Note: some insurers exclude both direct and resulting damage caused by rodents. However, other clauses in your policy may also apply. For instance, hidden gradual damage (damage caused by a leaking internal pipe) is also covered, but this is capped at $1500 per claim.

UPDATE: The member’s insurer agreed to cover the resulting damage – but the payout was limited by the cap placed on hidden gradual damage.

Front loader blues

I had the opportunity of either having my 13-year-old top-loading washing machine overhauled, or buying a new machine. I decided to buy a new front loader after consulting your magazine. The machine had 3.5 stars for energy rating, but takes nearly twice as long (56 minutes) as my old machine to go through its daily wash cycle. The spin is nowhere near the same standard, and items are still heavy with moisture at the end of the cycle. A MEMBER

Switching from a top loader to a front loader can take some getting used to as although both machine types perform the same task they do it in very different ways. As a general rule, front loaders take longer than top loaders to complete a wash as they slowly and gently turn the clothes over in a small volume of water while top loaders use a central agitator and a large volume of water to clean clothes quickly. Although your new front loader is costing you time, it will be saving considerable volumes of water.

Front loaders generally spin faster than top loaders to remove more moisture, so it’s unusual items are coming from your front loader with more moisture than those spun in your old top loader. Check you are using the maximum spin speed to remove as much water as possible.

As a final suggestion, experiment with the various cycle features on your new washing machine – you may find a wash cycle that meets your requirements better than the preset wash cycles.

Poor concert sound

I recently attended a concert where the sound quality was very poor. I wrote to the managers of the stadium and they referred me to the concert promoter. I have sent the promoter an email. I am keen to get your opinion as to the next step if they do not provide a refund. A MEMBER

The Consumer Guarantees Act requires service providers – including companies that provide entertainment events – carry out their services with reasonable care and skill. In this case, it seems the venue was not set-up with enough care and skill to enable you to hear the show properly and you didn’t get the service expected.

The Act gives you the right to a refund from the promoter or their ticket agent. If the promoter fails to provide a satisfactory response to your request, you’re entitled to lodge a claim in the Disputes Tribunal.

UPDATE: The promoter provided a refund as requested.

Blurry glasses

I paid over $1040 for two pairs of glasses in April 2013. One of the pairs has failed. They have blurred spots on the middle of both lenses and I am unable to see clearly out of them anymore. They have only ever been cleaned with soft cloths. When I noticed the blurring, I took them to the nearest optometrist and they said it looked like the coating on the lenses had broken down. They recommended I take them back to the store I bought them from. The manager there said the lenses are actually only guaranteed for a year and they extend the warranty to two years. This warranty expired about six weeks ago. The manager insisted the glasses have been scratched. Am I right that this should be covered under the Consumer Guarantees Act? A MEMBER

The store is wrong to claim it has no liability once the warranty ends. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, retailers must guarantee their products are of acceptable quality. This obligation does not end when the warranty does. You have looked after the glasses and dispute the store’s claim they have been scratched. In this situation, we suggest you get another optometrist to assess the condition of the glasses. If the lens coating has broken down, you’re entitled to ask the store to remedy the problem. If the glasses can’t be repaired, you can request a refund or a replacement.

UPDATE: The glasses were replaced by the store.

Faulty oven

Five years ago, I bought a premium-quality oven from a kitchen retailer for $6500. The warranty period has passed and we have had a fault with the oven that required us to replace the oven hot plate at a cost of $500. We approached the company we bought the oven from to see if it would cover the cost of repairs under the Consumer Guarantees Act. I stated a premium oven should last more than five years without needing repair. The company forwarded our request to the New Zealand agent who stated five years was an acceptable period before repair was required. Can you advise me on whether you think I should take the company to the Disputes Tribunal and whether I would lodge the claim against the company I bought the oven from or the New Zealand agent? A MEMBER

You can expect some repair in an oven’s lifetime but expensive ranges like this should be fault-free for longer than five years. The Consumer Guarantees Act requires goods bought for personal or domestic use to be of acceptable quality given the price paid. Where a product fails to meet this guarantee, it is the retailer’s responsibility to ensure the fault is remedied. The retailer may not be fully aware of its obligations. We suggest you contact the retailer again, pointing out its obligations under the Act. If you did decide to go to the Disputes Tribunal, you would lodge a claim against the retailer. It costs $45 to lodge a tribunal claim where the amount sought is less than $2000.