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Letters from March 2015

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We need a concrete solution

We had a concrete patio that slumped after the Christchurch quakes. Water was running towards the house foundations. We entered into a contract with a company to break up the old concrete and lay new concrete. The new concrete “pools” worse than before and runs towards the house in more places. The company has spent two months ducking the issue. It now claims the patio is within regulations. It says the concerns we’ve raised can’t be fixed because of various “factors” (factors it has never mentioned before). We have paid the company half of the total costs and it now wants the rest. What are our options? JACQUI TAYLOR

You should tell the company – in writing – that you’re withholding the second-half of the payment until it has addressed your concerns. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, services must be carried out with reasonable care and skill. If the building work isn’t up to scratch the company has to put things right. If it refuses to play ball, you can employ someone else to fix your patio – and you can claim these costs from the company.

Time is money

In March 2012 I purchased a watch from a jeweller for $1600. About six months ago, it stopped and I had a new battery fitted for $50. Six weeks ago the watch started losing time, so I went back to the jeweller. He said the watch was only guaranteed for two years. I told him that – under the Consumer Guarantees Act – a watch of that quality should last much longer than two years. He fitted a new battery and didn’t charge me. However, the watch has started losing time again, so there is obviously another fault. Should the watch be fixed or replaced at the jeweller’s cost? A MEMBER

The short answer is “yes”. You should take the watch back to the jeweller. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, the jeweller has the option of fixing the watch, replacing it, or taking it back and giving you a refund. If the watch can’t be fixed, you can choose a replacement or a full refund. UPDATE: The jeweller offered to fix the watch for free.

Setting boundaries

We bought land in a new subdivision. We built the house and put up a fence. Eventually, we found out who owned the land at the back of us. We wrote to the owners and asked if they would contribute less than half of the fence’s actual cost. The owners phoned and left a message on our answer machine advising they were more than happy with the fence – and happy to contribute the $2000 we’d requested. Sometime later (maybe 18 months), the owners put their land on the market. I phoned them late last year, after the land had sold. To cut a long story short, they said they didn’t like the fence at all, it wasn’t on the boundary and they weren’t going to pay anything towards it as they were never consulted. After some discussion, the owners said they would send a “small contribution”. We’ve received nothing. What’s your advice? A MEMBER

The Fencing Act states you can get your neighbours to contribute to the cost of work on an adequate fence if you serve them with a notice beforehand. The notice must clearly describe the boundary to be fenced, the type of fence to be built, who will build it and so on. Importantly, your neighbours must be given 21 days to object to any aspect of the proposed fence and make a counter proposal. Unfortunately, your neighbour can argue they don’t have to pay if you haven’t followed this process.