Consumer Watch: Bankrupt nearly back

By Susan Edmunds

Fleeced man says more information should be available to the public

Steve Taylor hired bankrupt Grant King to build a sleepout, but he did not do the work. Photo / Doug Sherring
Steve Taylor hired bankrupt Grant King to build a sleepout, but he did not do the work. Photo / Doug Sherring

A victim of a three-times bankrupted builder says more needs to be done to protect consumers from people who have been declared insolvent multiple times.

Grant King is due to be discharged from bankruptcy again in October, and Auckland man Steve Taylor has stepped up his website campaign to warn others about dealing with him - he says there is inadequate information available to the public about discharged bankrupts.

Since 1989, 143 people have been declared bankrupt three or more times. There are about 2500 bankruptcies a year, depending on the economic environment. A third of them are in Auckland.

In 2011/12, the Official Assignee was appointed to liquidate 396 companies - a 90 per cent rise in corporate insolvencies compared with the year before.

Taylor claims to have lost $23,500 - a 75 per cent deposit - when King did not finish a sleepout he was contracted to build in 2011. King admitted he had not obtained the required permits from the council but said he would not refund the money.

At the time, he was bankrupt and did not have permission to be self-employed.

King was declared bankrupt in 1991, 2005 and 2010 - owing about $90,000 in total to six creditors. He was convicted last year of running two companies while an undischarged bankrupt.

But the Insolvency Officer said there were no valid reasons for objecting to his automatic discharge from bankruptcy after three years.

Taylor told the Herald on Sunday he believed more people would lose money to King as soon as he was able to operate a business again. "In my opinion, it won't be long before Grant King is up to his old tricks."

Taylor said when he looked for information on King before contracting him to build the sleepout, he could find nothing.

Taylor said 67 alleged victims of King had come forward so far in response to his website campaign, claiming a combined loss of $2.69 million.

The Herald on Sunday has recently also reported on twice-bankrupted builder John Rea, who allegedly also took deposits and failed to do the work.

Robyn Cox, acting national manager of the Insolvency and Trustee Service, said the names of bankrupts stayed on the website for four years after their discharge, or seven years in total. They are named there permanently if they have been bankrupted more than once.

She said King's name would have been listed on the site at the time Taylor hired him.

King would not comment.

How to avoid being conned

• Pay as small a deposit as you can negotiate, and make sure you know what it covers.

• If a price is well above or below similar quotes, question it.

• Ask for referrals from friends.

• If you can't find someone via word of mouth, ask them for testimonials from clients and examples of their work.

• Search the insolvency register to find out whether they are, or have been, bankrupt.

- Herald on Sunday

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