An Auckland family fear they could be out on the street after being given a six-month deadline to fix a $200,000 building botch-up on their home of 15 years.
Hillsborough residents Nazgul Zamami and her husband, Mohammad Humayoon Safi, say they have been left high and dry after paying a builder for work deemed unsafe by the Auckland Council.
The builder, Shane Singh, has been made bankrupt and deported to Fiji, leaving them with few options of a remedy.
The council had issued a dangerous building notice because of "serious safety concerns at the address", including a lack of structural support that posed a danger to people inside the house.
Yesterday the council gave the family a deadline of December 9 to complete repairs or they would need to leave the property.
"I feel like crying and crying - I just don't know what to do," Zamami said.
The couple were now $150,000 in debt and wouldn't be able to complete the work even with a time extension, Zamami said. Their bank wouldn't lend them any more money, and their insurance company had declined their claim, she said.
Auckland Council manager for compliance investigations Kerri Fergusson said the council's main concern was the safety of the family.
"Sadly, their builder has carried out work which is well below any acceptable standard, resulting in a very unsafe building.
"We realise this is a very stressful time for all involved, but would like to reassure the family council shares their priority to see this home become safe again."
Family's $200k renovation hell: House deemed unsafe, builder deported
Rich businessman gets NZ residency, now guilty of fraud
All building work must be built to code and most work required a building consent, Fergusson said.
Zamami said she expected the family would be forced to sell the property and apply for Housing New Zealand accommodation.
Zamami and Safi entered into a contract with Singh and his company New Life Construction Workz Limited in January last year for a range of renovations and extension work to their Hillsborough property.
Despite an agreement to pay a deposit and the rest on completion, Singh kept discovering new costs, Zamami said, and had threatened to walk away if they didn't pay.
In the end Zamami claimed she had transferred $207,000 to Singh.
On June 6 this year, Auckland Council compliance officers deemed all of the work completed thus far not compliant and issued a dangerous building notice.
Singh agreed to fix the work but never showed up, Zamami claimed.
Singh was made bankrupt on June 20 and deported to Fiji.
The only option for a creditor to recover money from Singh was to lodge a bankruptcy claim through the Insolvency and Trustee Service, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said.
However any payment depended on whether the service could recover assets from Singh - and the cost of that recovery would first be deducted from the assets, along with any tax owed to the IRD.
If the homeowner had a building cover insurance policy they would be able to make a claim against that for their loss, she said.
Another Auckland woman, Pawanjit Kaur, said she was also owed money by Singh.
Kaur told the Herald she and her husband had paid Singh $50,000 start-up costs on a $450,000 contract for a new investment home to be built in Pukekohe.
Both Zamami and Kaur have filed police complaints against Singh.
A police spokeswoman said they were investigating a complaint received on July 1, and urged anyone with further information or who could assist with inquiries to contact Counties Manukau Police on 09 261 1300, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Kaur's husband travelled to Fiji last week to try to track down Singh and lay a complaint with Fiji police, but was told it was a matter for New Zealand police.
Both she and Zamami said they were not sure what they could do given Singh was outside New Zealand's jurisdiction, and had been made bankrupt.
Speaking to the Herald from Fiji on Tuesday, Singh said he had been deported without notice, and had not run away from the jobs.
Singh has not responded to further requests for comment from the Herald.
Auckland University of Technology associate professor of law Rod Thomas said it appeared police were often reluctant to chase up cases where commercial arrangements have gone wrong.
"With fraud, criminal intent needs to be proved, and [in these cases] it can be hard to prove that intent, so police are often very reluctant to get involved and will say it is a civil matter."
With Singh being outside of New Zealand's jurisdiction it would be difficult to pursue him through the courts, and being bankrupt meant he had no means to pay, Thomas said.
"Even if he remained in New Zealand it would seem suing him would have little result."
Thomas said it was important when people entered into significant commercial contracts they took precautions, such as checking for a Master Builders registration that could give some assurances.
However, the cases raised issues about what people had to do to get police engaged.
"If he was undertaking business without the realistic chance of meeting his obligations, you would think that would be enough to have police involved, but no doubt police are stretched in resources and busy with other more straightforward crimes."