30 Aug 2018

Landlord's 'swamp house' may be deemed unliveable

From Checkpoint, 5:25 pm on 30 August 2018

Auckland Council is considering deeming a Papakura rental home, labelled an "absolute disgrace" by the Housing Minister, unliveable.

Dawn Robbie lives at the Papakura home with her partner, Cameron, and her two daughters, a 3-year-old and 10-month-old - they pay $520 a week in rent.

The house has an incorrectly connected stormwater system and blocked drains, resulting in an ankle-deep swamp underneath the house, and an unusable, flooded yard when it rains.

Auckland Council compliance staff visited the property today - the second consecutive day they have visited - and Ms Robbie said they told her they were considering issuing a notice that the house was unfit for occupation.

If that happened, Ms Robbie said she would have 10 days to leave the house.

Ms Robbie said a representative from the Tenancy Tribunal also contacted her today and told her the Tribunal was making her case "a priority".

Since moving in about 21 months ago, the home has flooded every time it rains.

Her home had become mouldy and it had led to illness - her 10-month-old daughter was recovering from her third bout of bronchitis, Ms Robbie said.

She had been trying to get her landlord, Avendra Raj, to fix the issues since she moved in, in January last year, she said.

When Checkpoint visited the Manurewa address Mr Raj listed on Ms Robbie's tenancy agreement today, a man, understood to be his father, said Mr Raj was not home.

The man threatened to call the police unless Checkpoint left the property.

Mr Raj then, via text, provided a contact for his lawyer, Radhe Nand.

Mr Nand said Mr Raj had advised that he was "attending to all matters that need to be fixed in accordance with the compliance procedures of Auckland Council".

Ms Robbie said nobody visited her home today to carry out repairs.

Is new legislation needed?

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said the "swamp house" was a textbook study on why an overhaul of rules on the quality of rental housing was desperately needed.

But head of the Property Investors Federation Andrew King said no new legislation was needed to better protect people like Ms Robbie.

"Existing laws will handle this. The penalties are there, and they are harsh enough," Mr King said. 

"What we would like to see is good policy, which really does provide a benefit for the tenant, but in a cost effective manner, because ultimately, it's going to be the tenant who ends up paying for it."

Rental properties must be run as businesses, with good returns to the homeowner, Mr King said.

"If we don't have that return, and it's a pretty low return at the moment, people are not going to supply new rental properties, and we desperately need more rental properties at the moment."