A North Canterbury family bought their dream home in a mortgagee sale, but found all the fittings had been removed – even the kitchen sink.
Paulo and Di Moreira, who spent years working overseas as volunteers, said buying their first home in Oxford last month was a "dream come true".
The family of five paid $200,000 for the house through mortgagee sale and allowed the previous owner, a woman in her 60s, three weeks to move out.
Excitement turned to shock when they found their new home had been stripped to a shell after settlement.
The house was left without power or water, carpets or light fixtures. Taps and switches had been ripped out, pipes sawn off and fuse boxes removed.
The fitted kitchen was gutted, with the sink, stove, cabinets and kitchen taps all removed.
Without electricity or water, and with the home-ventilation system and logburner pulled out, the family could not yet live in their new home.
Legal experts say the case highlights the risks of mortgagee sales where banks selling the homes adopt an "as is where is" approach, unlike normal sales which usually include conditions, including what chattels will remain.
Police said no charges would be laid because it was a civil matter. Di Moreira said they would not have forced the woman from her former home.
"We just wouldn't have had it in us.
"She asked for three weeks, and we gave it to her," Moreira said.
"Hindsight's a good thing, but I don't think we would have done anything different."
She had not spoken to the woman, but did not believe her actions were personal.
The Moreiras' plight echoed that of a Tauranga family, who found the former owner of the home they bought at mortgagee sale had removed the kitchen, carpets and curtains.
The insurance company would not pay out because the former owner was there legally.
Christchurch lawyer Andrew Oh said mortgagee-sale purchasers had to be "very cautious" because banks excluded all liability.
"They basically say `we take no responsibility; you buy it as is, where is'."
Civil action could also be difficult because the contract was with the bank, not the former owner.
Oh said if the house remained occupied after the sale an agreement between the parties was needed.
"If you're not going to get vacant possession, then you need to outline the terms on which that person occupies the premises."
- The Press
Should park land be turned into carparking for Jellie Park?Related story: Car park plan shows 'breathtaking arrogance'