News & Views

West Auckland Housing

In the last edition, we talked about the government’s upcoming plans for intensification under its National Policy Statement (NPS) on urban development, which is encouraging private developers to quickly buyup multiple and neighbouring land.  The land grab has led to a radical change in “selling” techniques used by real estate agents, or “targeting” by private developers who arrive, uninvited, on your doorstep, offering to buy your house, right now. Many are not interested in your house, but your land.  The house will be demolished straight away, to make way for multiple and high-rise apartments/townhouses.  These people may be very convincing, and in a rush, to get you to sign up.  The price may sound amazing.  They are unlikely to want you to seek advice or even consult with family.  What’s important is how you respond.  You may not have even thought of selling, or you may have purchased a long time ago and are now very unfamiliar with the legal landscape and processes involved with real estate.  Even if the agent or buyer is a “nice person”, this is not the time to forego your legal rights.  

So: slow the process down, get proper and informed advice from a legal professional. Don’t allow yourself to be enticed with dollar signs and forego your sensibilities and your rights. By taking the time to catch your breath, you may even get more money for your property, as no doubt the first offer is not their best offer.  What’s important is that due process is followed for your best interests. It is unethical and unconscionable to exert undue pressure on anyone into signing an agreement, particularly the elderly, who may have no support.  At the very least, ask a property lawyer to have a look over the contract for you and to investigate the current estimated value of the property to ensure you are getting the best offer possible.  You do not need to allow anyone either into your property or even onto your property if you feel uncomfortable.

Ethical real estate agents will always recommend that you seek legal advice before signing an agreement for two reasons:  

a) to protect you as the vendor, and

b) to protect themselves as agents from the potential for complaints to be lodged against them in the Real Estate Authority under the Real Estate Agents Act 2008. However once sold, your old neighbours may not like the development.  The public may object to it because of, for example, blocked sunlight, views or altered property values. If the development is a permitted activity, neighbours get no say.  Where a neighbour is an affected party, the local authority determines if the impact is minor, or not, and only a small number of affected parties are able to make submissions.  After that, the legal options available to opposing a development are very limited and are costly, complex applications to the High Court or the Environment Court.  Where a townhouse development is built to the height requirements in the district plan, it will be tough luck for your neighbours.  Some developments are granted non-notified consent. While there will always be  underlying tensions between the public consultation process and speed to achieve the intensification and increase in housing the government seeks under its NPS, Council is unable to override national requirements.  

Finally, don’t feel the need to say “yes” to requests for access, even to storm water manholes on the basis they are “national assets”.  Your property is private property. Local authorities confirm that developers must use the formal process to gain access to a private property and owners are formally notified of the request in writing.  We know of a local instance where a private property owner was verbally approached and told to provide immediate access to the storm water drain. Both the developer and the agent insisted it was accessible because the storm water manhole is a “national asset”.  Access was firmly declined by the owner, and the developer insisted access cannot be denied, which is completely false.  The proper process had not been followed by the developer/agent and the property owner was well within their legal rights to decline all access. All concerns about strangers seeking access to private property should be directed to Watercare or Auckland Council before consenting under pressure to give access.  The local authorities are keen to know instances of persons who may be even impersonating official contractors or even local authority employees in order to gain access.  Property owners should always ask for formal ID and then call the local authority to check that person is employed or contracted to it.      

This article was written by Gina Jansen, Managing Director of Gina Jansen Lawyers Ltd, and was reproduced in the West Auckland publication “Window on Swanson” in October 2021.  Disclaimer: the content is not to be reprinted without the express permission of the author, nor is it intended to be relied upon or quoted as legal advice. Contact Gina Jansen Lawyers for legal advice.

Gina Jansen Lawyers are based at 9C Moselle Ave, Henderson, West Auckland but provide nationwide legal services with offices by appointment in Raglan and Ngaruawahia in the Waikato. Gina Jansen is an Accredited Specialist of the Property Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society. The above article is not legal and/or financial advice and is intended as a guide only and cannot be relied upon as legal advice. Legal advice specific to your circumstances should always be obtained. Our legal services include: property, conveyancing, trusts, estate administration, wills and enduring powers of attorney, relationship property settlements, divorce, Inland Revenue tax debts and disputes, bankruptcy, liquidation, commercial and business law. We welcome enquiries by phone or email.  We can provide referrals to a highly recommended group of chartered accountants, insurance brokers, financial advisers, mortgage brokers. Contact us for details by phone on 09 8695820, 0800 544508,  or refer to our website https://www.ginajansen.co.nz.    

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