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Woman Seeks $30K Refund For Unfinished Garage From Builder

The unfinished garage at a North Shore property owned by Roshni Devi. Photo: Roshni Devi

An Auckland woman says a builder has left her in the lurch with an unfinished garage and poorly done flooring, and she wants a refund of the $30,000 she paid him.

Roshni Devi, from Auckland's North Shore, said she hired a man who went by the names Sanjay Kumar and John Sam Kumar to do some renovation work on her house in August last year.

"My house was damaged in the January 2023 floods and the carpet had to be removed, I'd been looking for a builder for a while when I met Sanjay at a gathering at his sister's house.

"We got talking and he mentioned he was a builder and said he could do put new flooring in and do painting for $12,000. I mentioned I was looking to update my garage and he said he could do that too for an extra $38,000."



Devi said she paid Kumar and his business, On Call Renovations, $30,000 over the course of four months for a job she was told would take three months.

"He didn't do the work himself, he had two younger guys do it. This started in August 2023 and by January it still wasn't finished."

Wood and debris can be seen on the ground of the unfinished garage.

Planks of wood are seen lying on the ground of the unfinished garage. Photo: Roshni Devi

However, Kumar has claimed the $30,000 he has been paid covered the work he completed.

In December, Devi went overseas for a holiday and said Kumar told her the work was finished and she needed to pay the full amount.

"I said I need to check in person first, and when I was home I saw the flooring was mostly done, but the garage was basically just a roof.

"Inside, there was paint everywhere and the flooring was creaking. I told him he needed to do the garage before I paid the full amount and he just kept dragging it out."

Kumar would tell her he was sick or had a sore back or was busy and could not come to the property, and eventually he stopped responding altogether, Devi said.

"I think he's blocked me. I can't contact him and he's left me in limbo with a garage that needs walls before winter sets in.

"That was my hard-earned money and I can't afford to get another builder in now."

Kumar said the reason he stopped the work on the garage was due to Devi wanting it turned into a granny flat without having approval from Auckland Council

But Devi said this was never something they discussed and he had not told her that was the reason for stopping work.

"In cases where work is contingent on council approval, it is crucial to follow the proper procedures to obtain the necessary permissions to avoid any legal or regulatory issues," an email from Kumar said.

"If there are any concerns about the quality of work or any unfinished aspects of the project, I recommend addressing them directly with the parties involved or seeking legal advice if needed to resolve any issues amicably."

'Not the first time'

This was not the first time Kumar had been accused of leaving people out of pocket with unfinished building work.

Kumar Laxman hired Kumar - who then used the business name SSK Renovation and Home Services - in 2019 to do some painting.

"I started to realise he wasn't doing the job, he would come for one hour a day, or not at all, there was no carpet, no kitchen and a pile of rubbish thrown outside. He stopped responding to my texts and calls."

Laxman said Kumar had done the tiles and painting so poorly it all had to be removed and redone.

He took the matter to the Disputes Tribunal and Kumar was ordered to pay Laxman $5000, which he said he never received.

Vin Lawande and Ramiz Ali are two others who won small claims cases against Kumar - Ali said he had "never seen a cent", while Lawande said he received about 20 percent of the money owed.

What can consumers do?

After Kumar stopped responding to Devi, she reported him to police, but had not heard any updates on her case.

A police spokesperson confirmed a report had been received and staff were looking into the matter.

Consumer New Zealand's communications advisor, Abby Damen, said complaints about "shoddy building work" was one of the most common complaints Consumer NZ received.

Damen said not much could be done after the fact, but to protect themselves, people should only pay the deposit when all work was finished.

She said it was important to ask for a contract as this gave people the name and contact details of the tradesperson.

"Check they're a registered builder and pay by credit or debit card if you can as you may be able to contact your bank for help."

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment business specialist Ian Caplin said hiring a registered or licensed tradesperson would give people more rights under consumer laws if anything did go wrong.

"In the event of unethical behaviour, or a poorly done job, consumers have the right to report their tradesperson to a regulatory board, whether they're licensed or not."

Caplin said the complaint would not recoup any costs, that would need to be done through the disputes tribunal

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