Consumer Watchdog: Broke builder exposed

By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

Grant King was convicted on charges of operating a business while bankrupt.
Photo / Dean Purcell
Grant King was convicted on charges of operating a business while bankrupt. Photo / Dean Purcell

The victim of a bankrupt builder has published his story online

A victim of a builder who refused to return a $23,000 deposit for a sleep-out never built is urging other customers to post their troubles online so potential customers can be warned.

Grant Norman King, 57, was convicted and sentenced in the Waitakere District Court this week to 350 hours community work.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of operating a business while bankrupt.

King, who advertised on Trade Me, based his businesses, NZ Sleepouts and NZ Kennels, in Helensville and worked around the country.

The Herald on Sunday earlier revealed he took a 75 per cent deposit from Steve and Deborah Taylor for a sleep-out to be built for Steve's elderly father.

The deal turned sour after resource consent was turned down. King refused to refund the Taylors the $23,500 deposit.

The Taylors discovered King was bankrupt and contacted the Ministry of Economic Development, which investigated and laid the breach of bankruptcy charges.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years' prison.

Bankrupts, considered at risk of defaulting financially, need permission to operate a business.

King has been declared bankrupt three times, in 1991, 2005 and 2010, when he owed around $90,000 to six creditors.

Steve Taylor said he had learned an important lesson: only hire builders with trusted word-of-mouth referrals.

"Anything else can just be a very expensive lottery or game of chance," he said.

"Even registered service providers are no guarantee of a positive outcome," he said.

When Taylor hired King, a Google search did not reveal anything concerning on the builder's history.

These days, anyone checking him will find Taylor's blog, which he started when the project unravelled six months ago.

Taylor said the blog had 33,267 views - an average of 158 a day.

"The most significant deterrent for King in these proceedings will not be the convictions or the sentence. It will be public exposure.

"Before this story went public, King was invisible. He is not invisible any longer."

Taylor said he hoped the case and subsequent publicity prevented others being ripped off. He planned a civil case against King to determine whether he should be required to return their deposit.

"I would strongly encourage any consumers who have been ripped off to take action - simply walking away and cutting your losses enables people like King to keep hurting people."

In court, a Ministry of Economic Development lawyer said other customers had had poor quality building work done by King or had paid deposits on work that had not been completed.

Judge Claire Ryan said those matters would be best resolved through the civil courts, given King was bankrupt.

King would not talk to the Herald on Sunday but told Judge Ryan he would work to resolve problems with past customers.

- Herald on Sunday

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