Honesty Absent In Nurse Betty’s Flood-Prone Home Purchase

Posted on January 16, 2011 by | 5 Comments

Tim O'Dwyer M.A., LL.B OPINION
by Tim O’Dwyer M.A., LL.B
Consumer Advocate

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The saleslady told her first lie when Nurse Betty, as I’ll call her, noticed that the newly renovated highset house she liked adjoined a park and creek.  “Any flooding here?” she asked.  “Not a problem,” replied the saleslady.Nurse Betty

Most of us believe that nurses are very trustworthy – as surveys regularly show.

I first really trusted and appreciated nurses during the big cleanup after Queensland’s 1974 Australia Day floods – 37 years ago this month [January 2011].  I had been helping friends whose highset home in the Brisbane suburb of Graceville went completely underwater.  On the way home with mud-splattered  brooms and shovels sticking out of my VW’s passenger window I stopped at traffic lights.  Suddenly a volunteer nurse appeared and gave me a protective tetanus shot.

Just a few years ago a very trusting nurse (a family friend) arrived from interstate, promptly went house-hunting and visited a Graceville real estate agency.  This mature-aged lady soon discovered why agents are at the bottom of the trustworthy surveys.

The saleslady told her first lie when Nurse Betty, as I’ll call her, noticed that the newly renovated highset house she liked adjoined a park and creek.  “Any flooding here?” she asked.  “Not a problem,” replied the saleslady.

The creek happened to be notoriously flood-prone Oxley Creek, named after John Oxley who first recorded evidence of massive floods when he explored the Brisbane River in 1824.

After Nurse Betty’s eager offer was accepted, my wife and I joined her to revisit the house. We asked a neighbour about flooding.  In 1974, said the neighbour, the water went over his roof-guttering.  He always worried in heavy rains, he added, when the creek sometimes overflowed into his backyard.

Nurse Betty’s flood search later revealed that more than 5 metres of water covered the land in 1974.  Allowing for the Wivenhoe Dam, the Council estimated a Q100 flood (bigger than ’74) would still put this block more than 2 metres underwater.

The saleslady told her second lie when she assured her believing buyer that the renovations and the relocation of the house to this land had passed all Council inspections.  Nurse Betty’s building records search would show otherwise.  The Council had no record of any inspections.

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  • bruce moore says:

    Surly….the local building inspector report (assuming there was one)  would have an item alerting to the well known flood prone area of Graceville or was the local building inspector a real estate friendly operator…more conscious of the next referral than covering the necessary duty of care to the consumer?!

  • Dank Castle says:

    So she told her the property joined a creek…. but no chance of flooding. Crazy!

  • Yes, it’s very sickening to read something like this. Where did honesty go? Reminds me of my landlord actually, he keeps jacking up the rent for no reason other than he can get away with it! In the case of the nurse here, shouldn’t she have got an inspection carried out to establish these sort of things. Oh well, I guess people get caught up in the moment and don’t have time to think of everything! Cheers, Sean.

  • http:// says:

    But wait, there’s more to this story. Would you believe Nurse Betty later sold her Oxley home (with full flood disclosure to her buyers, mind)? Then happily (and fully informed) bought another in nearby Graceville! Her second home was completely submerged in 1974 but, fortunately, this time the waters went just below the ceiling. Trust me, it was still a muddy, soggy mess.

  • http:// says:

    Interesting story – I love a happy ending! My daughter and her husband have an investment property that was affected by flood waters and whilst there are so many others affected far greater than they are, they too are feeling quite jaded. They obtained a ‘floodwise’ property report before purchasing the property – it suggested they were much higher than a ‘1 in 100’ flood – assuming that would be a flood similar 1974 (like so many others) given there is no explanation of a ‘1 in 100’ year flood in the document. They also thought that their insurance policy had all of their bases covered. Having spent several thousands of dollars repairing and replacing items in the home that previous tenants trashed only a couple of months ago, they now face another repair bill that they are struggling to come to terms with. They are new parents and living on one wage and truly trying to get ahead in life and despite the fact that they have a mortgage to pay on the rental property, no rental income until they can repair the house (which is still without power one week on as Energex continue to battle to reconnect the power in their area) it appears that they are not entitled to any assistance as the property is not their principal place of residence. Hardly seems fair. Their tenants who chose to leave many of their possessions in the house despite evacuating three days prior to the water coming into the house are entitled to at least $1000 per adult (due to loss of power for more than 48 hours) and will no doubt receive significant support from the Australian government, local council and other flood relief avenues.

    Perhaps a reader/contributor may know of some assistance available to them?

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