22 Dec 2014

Boarding house legislation 'meaningless'

12:31 pm on 22 December 2014

Vulnerable people are still living in terrible conditions in boarding houses and the Government and local authorities need to intervene, a community housing group has said.

The Government is due to respond in January to recommendations made by a parliamentary select committee in August.

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust executive David Zussman

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust executive David Zussman Photo: RNZ / Teresa Cowie

They included that the health, building and tenancy acts be updated and local authorities take more responsibility for the quality of accommodation.

Chief executive of the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, David Zussman, told Nine to Noon the situation at the moment is not working for tenants.

He said legislation is piecemeal, weak and often not enforced.

"What we've got is regulations that just don't make sense, equally what we've got is a mix of by-laws, and central government legislation. All on their own have very small enforcement elements but the fact is no one is enforcing any of them."

He said this rendered existing legislation meaningless.

Mr Zussman said vulnerable people would be living in insanitary, and in some cases unsafe, accommodation over Christmas.

The Trust has received reports of problems like broken plumbing, leaking roofs, inadequate locks and poor cooking facilities.

Mr Zussman said more regulation of boarding houses is needed because tenants often feel unable to complain about their situation.

But Dr Smith told Nine to Noon regulation of the sector would be difficult and could make things worse for those people staying in boarding houses.

He said a WOF system for rental properties was overly simplistic.

"Because there are frankly some houses that you either can not get under, or you can not install insulation in the ceiling. You could take 80 odd thousand homes out of being available for rental."

He said it is better to have minimum basic standards than to add the cost of registration or compliance, which could then be passed on to tenants.