Residential claims case studies

Fraud and forgery

Property fraudsters strike Perth

In 2011, The West Australian newspaper reported that Nigerian fraudsters sold a Western Australian family’s $400,000 Perth home without their consent while they were living overseas.2 One year earlier, the newspaper reported a similar fraud, which saw another Perth home owner lose his investment property.3

In both instances, The West Australian stated that the victims were required to pursue the perpetrators and press criminal charges to obtain compensation. This is usually a long, protracted and highly stressful process that victims must pay for – and success isn’t guaranteed.

If the home owners mentioned in these news stories had a property risk insurance policy with First Title, they would have received comprehensive protection against the loss caused by the fraud.

First Title will defend our clients’ interest in their property and pay all legal costs. If you are unable to recover your home, we will indemnify you for your loss, and pay out the value of the property.

2 ‘Probe into alleged house sale scam’, Gabrielle Knowles and staff reporters, The West Australian, 10 August 2011

3 ‘Taskforce to probe alleged Nigerian scam’, Natasha Boddy, The West Australian, 11 August 2011

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Unapproved structures

Watertight policy saves owners thousands

A couple in New South Wales purchased First Title insurance when they bought their new home. Shortly after they moved in, they found their land flooded every time it rained. Eventually, they hired an engineer to inspect their retaining wall, which was approximately 20 years old.

The engineer discovered the retaining wall was built incorrectly and did not allow for drainage. Worse, the wall was built without council approval and did not comply with council requirements. The local council subsequently inspected the wall and issued a notice to the owners to demolish and rebuild it.

As soon as the council issued the notice on their retaining wall, the owners contacted First Title. We obtained council approval for a new retaining wall and quotes from local builders to demolish and rebuild it. We paid all the associated costs, including administration fees, materials and labour, saving the owners approximately $50,000.

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Good fence lines make good neighbours

After moving into her new home in South Australia, our client discovered that her neighbour’s fence encroached on her land by approximately one metre – a fact that was not uncovered during the conveyancing process when she bought the property (as surveys are not required in some Australian states). Our client sought to have the boundary corrected to improve access to her property, but her new neighbour claimed the land was now his.

First Title paid for a new survey of the land to determine the correct boundary line. We then instructed a contractor to correct the fence line as determined by the new survey and met all costs. We also helped negotiate a resolution with the neighbour to avoid legal proceedings. Our client now enjoys full access to her land.

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Illegal or unapproved building works

Australians love their carports, backyard decks, verandas and pergolas. Unfortunately, these are often built without council approval. According to Archicentre, a subsidiary of the Australian Institute of Architects, about 29% of Australian residences have an illegal structure.* The risk will often remain unknown to you until it’s too late.

Claims case studies - verandahThe new veranda

After moving into their new home in New South Wales, our clients were served with a notice from their local council. The notice stated that our client’s veranda did not comply with council regulations as it had not been termite-proofed. 

How we helped

First Title immediately arranged a pest treatment for the veranda to ensure it complied with the council notice. We then submitted the pest certificate to the council on behalf of our clients. The council issued our clients with a compliance certificate.

*Source: Archicentre media release: Why illegal building will catch up with you, 14 June 2011,

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Boundary and survey problems

When time and cost considerations are pressing, many purchasers are forced to skip the boundary survey process. First Title’s Home Owners Gold covers losses that arise from errors that would have been discovered, had a survey been carried out.

The inaccurate boundary fence

After a few months of living on her new property in New South Wales, a neighbour asked our client if she owned the parcel of land next to her property. Nobody knew who owned it. When another neighbour informed her that the boundary lines of their property were inaccurate, our client called us to resolve the issue.

How we helped

First Title arranged an identification survey, which showed that nearly all the boundaries on our client’s property were inaccurate – some in her favour, and some not in her favour. Our client advised that she wished to correct the boundary lines. She obtained a quote and we obtained a second, independent quote. We then ensured her boundary lines were corrected. The claim amount was approximately $25,000.

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Title problems

Even the most thorough conveyancing process cannot uncover all the potential risks against a property. That’s where property risk insurance comes in.

The sewage disaster

Our clients moved into a newly renovated home in New South Wales. During the conveyancing process, our clients had asked the vendor to provide an up-to-date sewer and drainage diagram as an added precaution. The vendor supplied a diagram and claimed it was up-to-date. However, three months later our clients woke up one morning to find their backyard filled with sewage, which poured down their driveway. Our clients immediately called a plumber, and First Title.

How we helped

We approved and covered the plumber’s remedial action, until the claim could be assessed. We assisted Sydney Water in its investigations as to whether a proper inspection had been carried out as the vendors had claimed. The investigations revealed that the sewer and drainage diagram was seven years old and did not include recent works carried out by the vendor.

We ensured that a correct, updated diagram was submitted to Sydney Water. We also covered repair work to ensure our clients’ sewer and drainage passed a final inspection by Sydney Water. The claim amount was approximately $8,000.

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Miscalculated risks

Even the most diligent conveyancing process cannot ensure the rate calculation is correct. This may leave you with an inherited debt from the previous owners of your property. First Title Home Owners Gold covers the losses arising from rate calculation errors.

The indebted vendor

Our clients purchased a new home in Victoria. Soon after, they were served with a notice from their local council, for unpaid rates of more than $3,000. Our clients contacted their conveyancer, who admitted they had made an error and miscalculated the rate adjustment at settlement. The previous owner acknowledged the debt, but stated that she could not afford to pay it.

How we helped

First Title accepted the claim. Our clients paid the outstanding rates and we reimbursed them for the full amount.

The inaccurate council

Two months after our clients moved into their new home in South Australia, their local council served them with a letter of demand for outstanding rates. After investigating the demand with their conveyancer, our clients discovered that the council had issued them with an inaccurate rates notice during settlement.

How we helped

First Title accepted the claim and reimbursed our clients for the outstanding debt, which totalled $1,500.

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