13 May 2018

Charity faces liquidation over office dispute

9:33 pm on 13 May 2018

Endometriosis New Zealand (ENZ) says it's facing legal action and liquidation, after it had to vacate what it says was an unhealthy work environment.

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File photo. Photo: 123RF

Endometriosis is a painful condition that causes the tissue that normally lines the uterus to grow outside of it, potentially causing infertility.

An environmental report at the charity's own cost showed the Christchurch office they have rented since 2004 has elevated levels of bacteria and toxic mould spores.

Repairs on the building were carried out in 2016, after it sustained earthquake damage, but in December that year, ENZ staff started noticing bubbles appearing in the paint work of the front office.

ENZ chief executive Deborah Bush said it immediately contacted the landlord Steve Brooks and his property management company, Astute, which she said went ignored.

In July last year, she said ENZ again informed the company about reoccurring water leaks through light fittings and the meter box, which she said also went unanswered.

She said ENZ was told there would be an investigation over Christmas, but after the holidays, nothing had been done and one staff member was told by her respiratory specialist she mustn't be in the building.

"We had one staff member hospitalised with a confirmed diagnosis that the infection was caused by black fungal mould," she said.

"We've never missed a beat with payments, we treat the property with respect, we've enjoyed it, but it's reached a point where it's just far too risky for us to stay in the premises and trying to work with a landlord who hasn't even fronted on one occasion to meet us despite our attempts," she said.

After offering two months rent in advance, they vacated the property, she said.

She said since wanting to terminate the tenancy, the group had been threatened with legal action and liquidation.

"Fancy threatening a charity or any business for that matter, with liquidation at a time where we couldn't even operate in the building because it was under repair, it's disgraceful behaviour," she said.

'This could have been easy to isolate and repair'

However, landlord Steve Brooks said a representative had always responded to ENZ on a prompt and regular basis.

"Since receipt of the latest report, we have tried to work with Deborah to resolve the issue, particularly because the report shows potential issues with only a small portion of one office out of the whole premises and this could have been easy to isolate and repair," he said.

Mr Brooks said the building was of a good quality and high standard and necessary repairs had been completed.

However, he added he was not obliged to provide Ms Bush or media with a report for the whole building as this had nothing to do with her tenancy.

He said he had offered a reduction in rent or an alternative premises and it was only fair ENZ complied with their lease.

"Like any other New Zealand company or organisation, (ENZ) has an obligation to pay their debts and comply with their legal obligations."

Mr Brooks said Endometriosis New Zealand could find a new tenant, but Ms Bush said they were not wanting to do that because they were a health organisation.