"I hired a builder thinking that everything was going to be all right…" – Samantha Powers' story

Many owners planning on renovating or building a new home are new to the entire building and contractual process. Today we talk to someone who entered into a building agreement naively assuming the contract was fair and that she would be protected. She was wrong. Hear Samantha’s story…


Kevin:  Many others owners planning on renovating or building a new home are new to the entire building and contractual process. They have little or no knowledge of contractual matters and can be easily intimidated by the builder.
My next guest entered into a building agreement naïvely, no doubt the same way most newbies enter into these projects. Samantha Powers assumed the contract was fair and that she’d be protected – Reasonable, I would have thought. Like you and I, she had seen those horror stories on A Current Affair and never thought that her experience in fact would be one of them. She was wrong.
As a result of the experience, Samantha has written an e-book that’s designed to be a guide to make sure that others learn from her experiences, and I’ll tell you how you can get a copy of that e-book in just a moment. In the meantime, Samantha joins me.
Hi, Samantha.
Samantha:  Hi, Kevin. Thank you for having me on your show.
Kevin:  Thank you for sharing the experience with us. I’m looking forward to you being quite frank about it. Tell me how bad was it? What exactly happened?
Samantha:  It was a pretty shocking, terrible experience for me. It lasted a number of years. My contract and everything started in 2010, and it’s only in January of this year that it actually finished up completely.
I hired a builder thinking that everything was going to be all right. It was a really simple build, supposed to be a single-story, nothing exceptional, not on a cliff face or anything, standard ground. It should have taken about seven months but at the one-year mark, he’d only just hit the brickwork stage.
He mismanaged all the money, because he had a whole bunch of projects on the side and during the economic downturn, it just didn’t pan out very well. In the end, he terminated the contract with me and he took a whole bunch of my money with him.
The subsequent attempts to rectify it was through the VCAT, the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal, and that lasted about a year and a half. Eventually, we had to go to the liquidation stage and then ASIC deregistered his business. Then we had to go through the builders warranty insurance. That all lasted about years.
Kevin:  What a nightmare! In about a minute and a half, you’ve taken us through a process that no doubt involved you in a lot of angst over a long period of time. The e-book is a result of all of that. You’ve documented basically where you went wrong. Did you have a solicitor onboard helping you through this process?
Samantha:  Towards the end, I did. I had a wonderful solicitor, but I must say that even the best solicitors – and particularly the good ones – do cost quite a bit. They’re on average about $450 an hour, and even then further on to go down the liquidation path, they are even more expensive than that. Prior to that, I’d gone through the Building Commission for advice, we’d sought conciliation and all that during the process before the lawyers. But very costly process to get to the end.
Kevin:  What are the tips that you’d have that you’d give someone who’s looking at taking on a building or renovation project like this? Have you got some tips along the way?
Samantha:  You can protect yourself before and during the contract. To protect yourself before the contract, find a good builder. A good builder is somebody who’s familiar with those projects, he knows what your upfront costs are going to be, what the potential pitfalls are, and he’s going to be pretty upfront with it. Sometimes that builder is possibly not going to be the cheapest builder.
The first step prior to any contract, definitely try and get a good builder in. On my website, you can download a checklist. It’s free; you don’t even have to sign up for a mailing list. Just a questionnaire on how to get a good builder.
Kevin:  That website, by the way, is NewHomeContracts.com.au.
Stay with us, Samantha. We’ll get you back later in the show and we’ll continue this chat with you. Stay with us. Lots more to come, and Samantha will be back a little bit later in the show with more of those great tips.

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