A couple with two young children were left with raw sewage spilling over their bathroom floor and water running down the walls after hiring an unqualified plumber to do renovations.
Stephen and Deb Leslie hired Herbert Beglin to upgrade an upstairs bathroom and an ensuite in their Paraparaumu home in February last year.
He had already worked on their roof and told them that, although he was not a registered plumber, he had experience in Britain and could "handle" their job.
"We had started to see him as a mate, he was praised in a building magazine, seemed highly recommended," Mrs Leslie said yesterday.
"He said he could do the work rather than getting a plumber, builder and tiler. We had him and his wife around for drinks, everything seemed hoki mai."
The couple had been told the job would take about 2 weeks but, after 10, it was still not finished. They paid him more than $13,000 for labour, but said they would not pay any more until the job was finished.
They did not see Mr Beglin or his employees again.
The first thing that alerted them to problems was a damp smell when they came into the house. When a downstairs toilet light began failing, Mr Leslie unscrewed it and discovered water running down the wires. In the laundry, water ran down the walls and the ceiling was stained.
Raw sewage began spilling from the back of the toilet on to the bathroom floor, wallpaper in the laundry started peeling, and they noticed stains on the ceiling of a downstairs bedroom.
Tile grouting on the bathroom floor became mouldy. "We had these massive white patches spreading over our tiles. It was hideous," Mrs Leslie said.
They called in a professional tiler, and were told the only thing to do was rip the bathroom out and start again. A qualified builder said the bathroom was "knackered".
Mr Leslie then asked Mr Beglin for his money back. "Then we could shake hands and call it quits. I told him we would pay the extra to take out the bathroom and rebuild it, or we would see him in court. He said, talk to his lawyer."
In Porirua District Court on Wednesday, Mr Beglin was fined $3800 with another $245 costs after pleading guilty to carrying out sanitary plumbing without being registered or licensed.
Judge Jan Kelly said he had failed to find out what work he could legally carry out in New Zealand, and incorrectly told the couple they did not need a building consent.
The size of the fine appalled Mrs Leslie, who said the couple had ended up paying about $50,000 to get the bathrooms they wanted.
"It is pathetic. We are paying interest on $50,000, we might get $20,000 back from [Mr Beglin's] insurance company. Our lives have been in upheaval for 18 months."
For about six months she had to bath their 3 and 4-year-old children in about 3cm of water in the shower. Although the bathroom had now been rebuilt, repairs were still needed.
"It will probably end up costing us at least $25,000 for our bathroom and we still have to build our ensuite," Mr Leslie said.
The couple have learnt only to employ qualified tradespeople.
"Bert is a lovely bloke," Mr Leslie said.
"I think he got a bit out of his depth and made promises he could not keep. He should have stuck to his knitting."
ASK FOR THE CARD
The Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board is in charge of ensuring competency of people doing that type of work.
Penalties from prosecutions it undertook in the year ended March ranged from fines of $750 to $8500, with an average of $2489.
The board says people carrying out sanitary plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying work must be authorised.
It is running an "Ask for the card" campaign.
If a plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer cannot produce their authorisation card call the board on 0800 743 262 to check they are authorised.
Alternatively, you can check the board's online register at www.pgdb.co.nz
- © Fairfax NZ News
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