1 Nov 2015

Toddler's death prompts tenant action

11:08 am on 1 November 2015

The death of an Auckland toddler blamed in part on her cold, damp home appears to have prompted an increasing number of tenants to take legal action against their landlords to improve the condition of their rental.

The Housing NZ property in Otara.

A coroner's report found a cold, damp Housing New Zealand home may have contributed to Emma-Lita Bourne's illness. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Emma-Lita Bourne, 2, was in hospital with pneumonia when she died from a brain bleed last year.

A coronor's report into the death in June, found her cold, damp Housing New Zealand home in Otara might have been a contributing factor in her death.

The report sparked calls for a housing warrant of fitness for both state and private rentals, but that idea was dismissed by the government.

Some tenants are taking action into their own hands.

In Tauranga, Baywide Community Law Services managing solicitor Bev Edwards said the case had raised awareness among many tenants of the importance of living in a warm and dry home.

An increasing number were seeking help to challenge the condition of their rental with the landlord, she said.

"We used to see one a month but now we're easily seeing one a week. I think it's more an awareness of a tenant's right, possibly, to have a safe, warm and dry house."

However, Ms Edwards said her centre was struggling to cope with the extra workload as its funding had been frozen for the last eight years.

Community Law Centres Aotearoa has funding from the Ministry of Justice and from interest accrued on lawyers' nominated trust accounts held at the five major trading banks.

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