High cost in Te Awa Hilton repossession


A finance company found out the hard way that repossessing a Tamahere mansion isn’t as simple as it sounds.

The house known as the Te Awa Hilton

The large home, nicknamed the Te Awa Hilton, was repossessed by FM Custodians Ltd in August 2015, while the occupiers – Robert (Rocky) Hoani Clifford Cribb and Karen Lynne Stevens – were in Europe.

Cribb and Stevens failed to give FM Custodians an address to shift their house full of furniture to, so FM Custodians packed it up into five containers and stored it with a local removal company, reports Stuff.

Eighteen months later, when Cribb and Stevens sprung their possessions from Allied Pickford, they refused to pay the $50,000-plus for the removal and storage costs.

FM Custodians sued and the High Court at Wellington on July 7 ruled against the couple and told them to pay up.

The finance company had demanded $51,586.40 for the packing, transport, storage and insurance of Cribb and Stevens’ possessions from September 9, 2015, until March 28, 2017.

“The defendants chose not to provide a delivery address for 18 months and cannot now complain that the extensive costs incurred by the plaintiff were not properly incurred,” Justice Mark Woolford said in his ruling.

In August 2015, FM Custodian Ltd was granted immediate possession of the house. The owner was a company of which Cribb was a director.

Cribb and Stevens failed to vacate their belongings within the seven-day notice period and did not return to New Zealand until two months after FM Custodians had claimed possession of the property.

The couple argued that the finance company didn’t have possession of the property at the time their possessions were removed.

“I am of the view that the plaintiff gave reasonable notice for the removal of the chattels,” Woolford said. “There is also no evidence that the defendants took any action prior to execution of the possession order to investigate options for the removal and storage of their chattels.”

Although Cribb, a former New Zealand snooker player, organised his snooker table, golf cart and ride-on mower to be returned to him, five container loads of the couple’s possessions remained at removal company Allied Pickfords’ storage facility.

The couple said their possessions would not have caused any harm remaining at the Tamahere property, at least until the house was sold. They also argued that the costs should have been deducted from the proceeds of the sale, but Justice Woolford said in his ruling that there had been no surplus from the 2016 mortgagee sale.

“This is a rather artificial argument. The chattels could not remain on the property and it was only ever a question of when they were removed,” Woolford said.

“I am of the view that to vacate means to give up possession or occupancy of the property, which necessarily includes taking away the chattels that the vacating party wishes to retain.”

The Te Awa Road mansion was built in 1995 on an 8425m2 section, and has five bedrooms and five bathrooms and was once referred to as the Te Awa Hilton.

Cribb bought the house in 2000. His company Kamai Palms Golf Resort Ltd was the subject of bankruptcy proceedings and ordered into liquidation by the High Court in 2010, owing lenders $11 million, and the New Zealand Inland Revenue some $NZ174,000 in unpaid taxes.

The Te Awa Road property is currently on the market.

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