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Our house is being held for ransom by a dodgy building company….

By 26 March 2014 32

My partner and I are first home buyers and have purchased a house and land package in Gungahlin. We were taken in by a slick sales pitch, by a well known real estate agency, which included a computer rendered image of the completed home on allhomes.com.au. The listing and subsequent marketing all included an impressive inclusions list and continually touted “Fixed price contract”, “complete front landscaping”, “nothing else to do”…..etc. The home is now complete (minus the front landscaping as the building company deliberately took it out of the contract), we have the Certificate of Occupancy and we have paid the final installment only to be given an invoice for additional kitchen joinery! They are now refusing to give us our keys until this new cost is paid. They also refuse to give us an itemised invoice for the additional cost so we don’t even know what the additional cost was for.

Has anyone had this happen to them before whilst building in Canberra?

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32 Responses to Our house is being held for ransom by a dodgy building company….
#1
justsomeaussie2:16 pm, 26 Mar 14

If you have the certificate of occupancy you own the house! So get a locksmith, change the locks and move in.

#2
Persephone2:16 pm, 26 Mar 14

If you have the certificate of occupancy, it’s your home and it’s safe to move in. , get a locksmith, open the doors, replace the lock and give them the big FU. Then tell them to take you to court. Fact is you have a contract that states all inclusions. and the onis is on them to taken action if you are living in your home.

#3
Apsara2:40 pm, 26 Mar 14

I agree – change your locks and start legal action. Don’t pay the bill until they provide the answers. If they took landscaping out of the contract, you should have a reduction in price. If you didn’t, you’d have some recourse.

This situation happened to us when we built our first home, albeit in another state. We had the marketing brochures that stated what the inclusions were and when they reneged on providing those (insulation, flyscreens etc) we started legal action and they quickly put them in. I think that and the threat of “A Current Affair” did it for us…

Good Luck!

#4
Genie2:53 pm, 26 Mar 14

You have a fixed price contract, unless you have something else written and agreed to in writing they cannot charge you a single cent more than your fixed price contract

Secondly if your original contract price included landscaping and this was not provided you’re entitled to a reduction on the final contract price. However if this was omited from the contact with the building company and you signed this. Then no landscaping.

#5
moneypenny2:56 pm, 26 Mar 14

A certificate of occupancy has nothing to do with actual ownership rights as it is only part of the documents required for a sale/ purchase. It’s purpose is to certify that the building is up to code and safe for habitation. ACTPLA has details on it here. Speak with your conveyancer.

#6
milkman3:13 pm, 26 Mar 14

How much of the total price have you paid?

This is a question for the lawyers. Take it to your solicitor immediately, don’t talk to the builder and definitely don’t pay.

#7
dungfungus3:37 pm, 26 Mar 14

justsomeaussie said :

If you have the certificate of occupancy you own the house! So get a locksmith, change the locks and move in.

If the locks are like any I have seen on new homes in Canberra you wont even need a locksmith. Just grip the shank of the entrance set with a pair of multigrips, turn and the knob will fall off. A straight blade screwdriver will act as key and replacement hardware costs about $40 and can be fixed in place by anyone who can use an iphone (to get instructions on Youtube).

#8
rosscoact3:50 pm, 26 Mar 14

Are they with the MBA or HIA? If so, write to them and complain with attached contracts.

#9
justsomeaussie4:05 pm, 26 Mar 14

Bec452 I’m also looking to build in Googong but can’t figure out how to PM you. Can you PM me with any details?

#10
Holden Caulfield4:47 pm, 26 Mar 14

rosscoact said :

Are they with the MBA or HIA? If so, write to them and complain with attached contracts.

And they’ll do sweet fuck all.

Oh, sorry, they might laugh at you.

#11
cranky7:41 pm, 26 Mar 14

rosscoact said :

Are they with the MBA or HIA? If so, write to them and complain with attached contracts.

Forget this option. These industry groups may as well be the godfathers of dodgy builders. They have no interest in supporting anyone but their members.

#12
milkman9:59 pm, 26 Mar 14

cranky said :

rosscoact said :

Are they with the MBA or HIA? If so, write to them and complain with attached contracts.

Forget this option. These industry groups may as well be the godfathers of dodgy builders. They have no interest in supporting anyone but their members.

+1. Go to your solicitor. This is not the time for making mistakes.

#13
Wodgie11:16 am, 27 Mar 14

Hey, you could give the office of regulatory services a call and speak to the fair trading guys. They might be able to help you out.

#14
VYBerlinaV8_is_back12:24 pm, 27 Mar 14

milkman said :

cranky said :

rosscoact said :

Are they with the MBA or HIA? If so, write to them and complain with attached contracts.

Forget this option. These industry groups may as well be the godfathers of dodgy builders. They have no interest in supporting anyone but their members.

+1. Go to your solicitor. This is not the time for making mistakes.

+1 from me too. This is why you engage a solicitor. Use them.

#15
rosscoact2:06 pm, 27 Mar 14

cranky said :

rosscoact said :

Are they with the MBA or HIA? If so, write to them and complain with attached contracts.

Forget this option. These industry groups may as well be the godfathers of dodgy builders. They have no interest in supporting anyone but their members.

With all due respect you have no idea what you’re talking about.

MBA and perhaps to a lesser extent HIA take their name seriously. I know because I used MBA very successfully in a building matter. They pursued the builder, mediated and resolved the matter.

Sometimes you need to take a quiet moment and think about things

#16
water_lily4:01 pm, 27 Mar 14

Having just been through the building process I have engaged a lawyer to deal with my crooked builder. I personally think that you’ve been given good advice–you have your certificate of occupancy: change the locks and move in. Just to be sure, you might want to get legal advice. But it is your land and your house. You have paid. Don’t bother with the MBA. They support their members. They offer a mediation service. I dragged my builder along to mediation. The decisions were made in the builder’s favour, but they were better than what the builder was trying to foist upon me. I was happy to accept the MBA’s decisions. Months later I get an invoice which completely ignored ALL of the mediation decisions. My opinion is that the MBA should not be allowed to be offering mediation–what’s the point if it’s biased and if the builder ignores it? Towards the end the MBA did try to get the builder to finish the house, as by then he was eight months past practical completion date. My builder got me to sign one copy of the contract, took that one copy away and then added another $40,000+ to the price without my consent. He didn’t return that copy to me until six months after I signed it. By then it was too late for me to go to another builder. He is now willing to go to court and perjure himself. I hope it works out well for you. It hasn’t happened to you because you were first home buyers and gullible; it happened to you because there is NOTHING here in Canberra to stop these practices by builders. Canberra, unlike all the other states, have no legislation protecting consumers who enter into building contracts. Dodgy builders do it because they know they can get away with it; they have a sense of entitlement; they think themselves above the law. If it’s any consolation, I have purchased houses, we have done major renovations three times, and it still happened to me. Good luck. Can you name the builder?

#17
water_lily4:09 pm, 27 Mar 14

rosscoact said :

cranky said :

rosscoact said :

Sometimes you need to take a quiet moment and think about things

What a condescending comment to make. Think about what exactly? The refusal of the builder to give an itemised account? The refusal of the builder to hand over keys unless the ransom money is paid? Or should they just hand over their money when they don’t know what it is for?

#18
zllauh4:18 pm, 27 Mar 14

Kindly share the companies name so that other residents of Canberra can be aware of the same.

#19
Holden Caulfield5:10 pm, 27 Mar 14

Wodgie said :

Hey, you could give the office of regulatory services a call and speak to the fair trading guys. They might be able to help you out.

IME they’re not much chop either. :(

#20
cranky5:56 pm, 27 Mar 14

rosscoact said :

cranky said :

rosscoact said :

Are they with the MBA or HIA? If so, write to them and complain with attached contracts.

Forget this option. These industry groups may as well be the godfathers of dodgy builders. They have no interest in supporting anyone but their members.

With all due respect you have no idea what you’re talking about.

MBA and perhaps to a lesser extent HIA take their name seriously. I know because I used MBA very successfully in a building matter. They pursued the builder, mediated and resolved the matter.

Sometimes you need to take a quiet moment and think about things

Play the man, not the ball much.

Do you think I would comment as I did without very valuable personal experience?

The HIA could not give a hoot about my complaint. They apparently ‘spoke’ to the builder, but the end result was ‘your on your own’. And believe me, my complaint was not insignificant. Non compliance with contract, very poor subbies, and a massive bill for over-runs at completion. How about $800 to install a power point in the fuse box.

No faith in these organisations at all.

#21
Elf10:51 pm, 27 Mar 14

You are not obligated to pay for the kitchen joinery unless you signed an agreement for the extras. This can be a invoice raised by the builder but it must be signed by both. He can’t just charge you extras you haven’t agreed to.

Likewise, you might have a case for the landscaping. If you still have the marketing docs, take it up with the real estate agent. The best place to do this is at an open house they are at. At least tell them you will tell everybody about how they ripped you off. You should at least out them and the builder on this forum. If you are telling the truth they can’t sue for slander.

I would do as others have said and take possession. Contact ACTPLA about the kitchen charges, they will confirm what I have said. Then harass the Real Estate Agent about the Landscaping pointing out his integrity is on the line given he sold it to you with marketing material including landscaping.

#22
goody65810:32 am, 28 Mar 14

Name and Shame?. There was a list of dodgy builders in the Canberra times the other day. Are they part of that list?

#23
IrishPete11:55 am, 28 Mar 14

I also understand a Certificate of Occupancy to be nothing to do with ownership, it certifies the building is complete and fit for human habitation. If you have nothing else (Deed? if you don’t, maybe your lender has it?) that proves ownership, you could end up in the Watchhouse if you break into the house. If you do have other documents that prove you own it, knock yourself out. The lawyer or Fair Trading route is safer but probably slower.

IP

#24
p13:56 pm, 28 Mar 14

IrishPete said :

(Deed? if you don’t, maybe your lender has it?)

Bank might be interested in what is going on, since (unless you paid cash for the place) they probably technically own it… or should, except the builder is withholding handover.

Probably not though, since banks are scum.

#25
rosscoact3:58 pm, 02 Apr 14

cranky said :

rosscoact said :

cranky said :

rosscoact said :

Are they with the MBA or HIA? If so, write to them and complain with attached contracts.

Forget this option. These industry groups may as well be the godfathers of dodgy builders. They have no interest in supporting anyone but their members.

With all due respect you have no idea what you’re talking about.

MBA and perhaps to a lesser extent HIA take their name seriously. I know because I used MBA very successfully in a building matter. They pursued the builder, mediated and resolved the matter.

Sometimes you need to take a quiet moment and think about things

Play the man, not the ball much.

Do you think I would comment as I did without very valuable personal experience?

The HIA could not give a hoot about my complaint. They apparently ‘spoke’ to the builder, but the end result was ‘your on your own’. And believe me, my complaint was not insignificant. Non compliance with contract, very poor subbies, and a massive bill for over-runs at completion. How about $800 to install a power point in the fuse box.

No faith in these organisations at all.

You’re right, I apologise for being patronising. It’s pretty poor behaviour and I apologise unreservedly. That’s a shame about HIA not being worth the name.

Still, do contact MBA if they are in it, you might get some joy.

#26
NoImRight12:29 pm, 03 Apr 14

p1 said :

IrishPete said :

(Deed? if you don’t, maybe your lender has it?)

Bank might be interested in what is going on, since (unless you paid cash for the place) they probably technically own it… or should, except the builder is withholding handover.

Probably not though, since banks are scum.

Managed to be wrong in every sentence. Nice job of helping.”Technically” the Bank doesnt own the house. Probably never will. The name on the CT tells you who owns the house. So the question is whether there has been a settlemet or not. Sounds like there probably has. In which case the OP is the owner. As others have stated a Certificate of Occupancy also has nothing to do with ownership. If it hasnt settled OP needs to get their solicitor working.

Given the ignorance in your comments your last statement is just puerile. Was it meant to sound smart or tough? Or both? Just playing to the crowd? “Yeah! Take that Establishment!”

#27
p12:28 pm, 03 Apr 14

NoImRight said :

The name on the CT tells you who owns the house.

Ahhh, obviously. Wait, what is a CT? You call me out as being ill-informed on the subject (which I certainly am), yet do a very poor job of communicating the only potential new bit of information in your post.

NoImRight said :

Given the ignorance in your comments your last statement is just puerile. Was it meant to sound smart or tough? Or both? Just playing to the crowd? “Yeah! Take that Establishment!”

Tough. Yes, with that comment I was trying to portray myself as the kind of tough guy who… wait, what again? ‘…banks are scum’ was obviously not supposed to be deeply philosophical treatise on the plight of the individual in a world of multinational corporation or on the ethics of global wealth distribution. Safe to say thought that I do not particularly like, nor value banks.

#28
NoImRight3:42 pm, 04 Apr 14

p1 said :

NoImRight said :

The name on the CT tells you who owns the house.

Ahhh, obviously. Wait, what is a CT? You call me out as being ill-informed on the subject (which I certainly am), yet do a very poor job of communicating the only potential new bit of information in your post.

NoImRight said :

Given the ignorance in your comments your last statement is just puerile. Was it meant to sound smart or tough? Or both? Just playing to the crowd? “Yeah! Take that Establishment!”

Tough. Yes, with that comment I was trying to portray myself as the kind of tough guy who… wait, what again? ‘…banks are scum’ was obviously not supposed to be deeply philosophical treatise on the plight of the individual in a world of multinational corporation or on the ethics of global wealth distribution. Safe to say thought that I do not particularly like, nor value banks.

Fair point. Im usually in a rush typing so perhaps didnt think through my “advice” ;-)

The CT is the Certificate of Title. As the name suggests its the actual Land Titles document that says who owns the land. For most of us a Bank will have a mortage registered “on the title” so will actually be holding thisdocument. At a settlement (buying/selling a property) the seller hands over the title and a discharge of any mortgages on the title. The buyer then takes it and some other stuff to Land Titles and registers their ownership. More to it than that just trying not to write an essay.

So the question is, as I said before, has the OP setteld or not? If yes then they do own the place. If not the Cert of Occupancy is irrelevant. If I was a locksmith and someone called me out to change every lock in their house and didnt have any keys Id be well ……curious. So Id exercise caution before going down that path.

#29
dungfungus7:41 pm, 05 Apr 14

NoImRight said :

p1 said :

NoImRight said :

The name on the CT tells you who owns the house.

Ahhh, obviously. Wait, what is a CT? You call me out as being ill-informed on the subject (which I certainly am), yet do a very poor job of communicating the only potential new bit of information in your post.

NoImRight said :

Given the ignorance in your comments your last statement is just puerile. Was it meant to sound smart or tough? Or both? Just playing to the crowd? “Yeah! Take that Establishment!”

Tough. Yes, with that comment I was trying to portray myself as the kind of tough guy who… wait, what again? ‘…banks are scum’ was obviously not supposed to be deeply philosophical treatise on the plight of the individual in a world of multinational corporation or on the ethics of global wealth distribution. Safe to say thought that I do not particularly like, nor value banks.

Fair point. Im usually in a rush typing so perhaps didnt think through my “advice” ;-)

The CT is the Certificate of Title. As the name suggests its the actual Land Titles document that says who owns the land. For most of us a Bank will have a mortage registered “on the title” so will actually be holding thisdocument. At a settlement (buying/selling a property) the seller hands over the title and a discharge of any mortgages on the title. The buyer then takes it and some other stuff to Land Titles and registers their ownership. More to it than that just trying not to write an essay.

So the question is, as I said before, has the OP setteld or not? If yes then they do own the place. If not the Cert of Occupancy is irrelevant. If I was a locksmith and someone called me out to change every lock in their house and didnt have any keys Id be well ……curious. So Id exercise caution before going down that path.

With respect, you can’t own land in the ACT.
You can own a lease and a lender will usually accept that lease as security for a mortgage loan.

#30
NoImRight7:54 am, 07 Apr 14

dungfungus said :

NoImRight said :

p1 said :

NoImRight said :

The name on the CT tells you who owns the house.

Ahhh, obviously. Wait, what is a CT? You call me out as being ill-informed on the subject (which I certainly am), yet do a very poor job of communicating the only potential new bit of information in your post.

NoImRight said :

Given the ignorance in your comments your last statement is just puerile. Was it meant to sound smart or tough? Or both? Just playing to the crowd? “Yeah! Take that Establishment!”

Tough. Yes, with that comment I was trying to portray myself as the kind of tough guy who… wait, what again? ‘…banks are scum’ was obviously not supposed to be deeply philosophical treatise on the plight of the individual in a world of multinational corporation or on the ethics of global wealth distribution. Safe to say thought that I do not particularly like, nor value banks.

Fair point. Im usually in a rush typing so perhaps didnt think through my “advice” ;-)

The CT is the Certificate of Title. As the name suggests its the actual Land Titles document that says who owns the land. For most of us a Bank will have a mortage registered “on the title” so will actually be holding thisdocument. At a settlement (buying/selling a property) the seller hands over the title and a discharge of any mortgages on the title. The buyer then takes it and some other stuff to Land Titles and registers their ownership. More to it than that just trying not to write an essay.

So the question is, as I said before, has the OP setteld or not? If yes then they do own the place. If not the Cert of Occupancy is irrelevant. If I was a locksmith and someone called me out to change every lock in their house and didnt have any keys Id be well ……curious. So Id exercise caution before going down that path.

With respect, you can’t own land in the ACT.
You can own a lease and a lender will usually accept that lease as security for a mortgage loan.

No thats true but its not relevant and doesnt actually make any difference as far as the reality of land transactions in the ACT and in particular this case.

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