AS LETTERS of support for Rick Fischer and GJ Gardner Homes Grafton continue to pour in to the Daily Examiner, the NSW Office of Fair Trading has weighed in to the public debate.
Fair Trading has been accused of inefficiency and a failure to assist home owners who find themselves in dispute with their builder or tradesman.
"Fair Trading cannot comment on the private details of individual consumers' complaints," a Fair Trading spokesman said.
However, the spokesman also noted that in some cases the consumers had sought external legal advice and taken separate court action which has added to the time taken to resolve the complaint.
"There are factors that sometimes arise in these kinds of situations that can make a dispute more complicated and harder to resolve. If consumers terminate their contract with the builder, Fair Trading is no longer able to assist as there is no longer a contract that Fair Trading can help to enforce.
"If the consumer has met their responsibilities but the trader has not met their responsibilities then it can be straightforward to issue rectification orders or take other action to require the trader to do the right thing. If however the consumer also breaches their responsibilities this can make the dispute more complicated."
"For example, if consumers fail to make payments to traders that are under their contact, or if consumers take early possession of the house without agreement and lock out the builder that can also complicate matters."
The spokesman also said that the number of complaints against Fischer Built P/L were not out of the ordinary, considering the number of homes built by the franchise each year.
"Of the current eight matters involving the builder, orders have been issued by Fair Trading in three matters. The orders have been complied with by the builder in two of those three matters. In the other matter the order was not complied with and the consumer took the matter to the CTTT."
According to Fair Trading, most of the current matters involving Fischer Built P/L have taken longer than to resolve than the benchmark 30 days because the matters have mostly progressed from being a complaint to becoming a full-blown dispute.
In terms of the ability of Fair Trading to legally enforce orders, the spokesman said, "Fair Trading has significant powers to assist in resolving disputes and legally enforceable powers to require traders to rectify defects."
If the period for rectification of work under a Rectification Order has expired and the contractor has failed to carry out work as provided in the order, the home owner can lodge a building claim with the Tribunal which may make a binding determination.
"If the contractor fails to comply with an Order of the Tribunal or fails to comply with a Rectification Order this constitutes 'misconduct' under the Home Building Act."