Case Number: 3492

Council Meeting: March 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

Ruling Categories: Court Reporting

The NZ Herald published a story on 16 September 2023 headlined Couple slyly sells leaky home. The story was a report of a court case in which a former real estate agent and his wife pleaded guilty to fraud by removing reference to “major moisture related defects” from a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) prior to the sale of their home.

* AB, who has permanent name suppression, complained the NZ Herald story was sensational and inaccurate.

He said there was no evidence the house was leaky and that none of three building reports done within a month of the sale talked of leakiness. It was sensational to say the couple who bought the house had lost $300,000 when there was no evidence to support that. He also claimed the couple who bought the house obtained a building permit to reclad the house within six months of buying it and asked why they planned to do this if they did not know of the issue.

The NZ Herald rejected the complaint and said the story was a fair and accurate account of court proceedings in which the complainant and his wife had pleaded guilty and been convicted of fraud.

It said the media enjoys “the legal privilege of a fair and accurate report of court proceedings” and many of the matters raised by AB were not tested in open court nor were they in the court file supplied to the NZ Herald.

The Media Council considers it was fair to describe the house as a leaky home given the LIM report descriptor of “major moisture related defects.”  Houses with cladding and moisture problems are commonly referred to as leaky homes.

This was a factual report of Court proceedings in which the complainant and his wife pleaded guilty to fraud. There was no obligation to cover arguments the defendants may have with the Court’s findings or report on peripheral matters which may or may not have been raised in Court.

Decision: There are no grounds to proceed.

*The complainant's name is anonymised to 'AB' in this ruling as the Court granted him permanent name suppression for health reasons.. 



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