31 Aug 2018

Swamp house landlord given 10 days to fix house

From Checkpoint, 5:15 pm on 31 August 2018

The owner of a Papakura house, labelled as an "absolute disgrace" by the Housing Minister, has 10 days to fix his property or face a hefty fine.

Auckland Council deemed the house to be insanitary today, meaning landlord Aven Raj has 10 days to resolve the property’s issues - uncompliant stormwater pipes, poor drainage and mould - or face a $200,000 fine and an extra $20,000 for every day the issues continue.

The issues have formed an ankle-deep swamp underneath the house, which causes dampness and mould inside, and renders the yard an unusable swamp.

"This swamp house is really a textbook study in why we desperately need to overhaul the rules relating to the quality of rental housing in New Zealand," Housing Minister Phil Twyford said.

"It's an absolute disgrace."

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.

Tenancy Services, a branch of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, is considering taking Mr Raj to the Tenancy Tribunal on behalf of the family.

“We're treating this as a very serious allegation,” Steve Watson, head of compliance at Tenancy Services, said. “What we may do is consider taking Civil action if the matter is serious enough.”

Investigators spent two hours at the property this morning, gathering evidence, and will interview Mr Raj in the coming days.

Ms Robbie may be forced to vacate the home while remedial works take place.

She is yet to find a new rental home to move into, so may have to get rid of her family dog to make finding one easier.

“My dog is family too. And I need security too. I need to know that my kids and I will be safe while my partner is at work. And I'm not going to have that anymore,” Ms Robbie said.

The landlord, Aven Raj, could not be reached for comment. 

Yesterday, 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 yesterday 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 she has not heard from Mr Raj since Tuesday.

“I honestly think he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about my family. He doesn’t care about my dog. He doesn’t care about the consequences of what families and tenants have to go through to get into a healthy new home, because he chose not to protect his investment," she said.

“And I personally blame him. And I'm definitely going to hold him accountable, because I'm very upset. I'm losing my family dog over this.”

Tenancy Services will contact “other agencies such as Auckland Council and other regulators who might have an interest in this”, Mr Watson said, and may conduct a joint investigation “if that's appropriate”.

Mr Twyford said he did not direct Tenancy Services to investigate, but was pleased it was investigating.