1 Aug 2023

'They clearly don't really care' - Auckland renter paying for mouldy home

7:00 pm on 1 August 2023
The view from Sarah Yates' Mt Eden flat.

Sarah Yates' Mt Eden flat may have a gorgeous view but she said it was damp, covered in mould and in breach of the government's Healthy Homes Standards. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

An Auckland renter is calling for more accountability for property managers after discovering her flat failed the government's Healthy Homes Standards.

When Sarah Yates moved into her Mt Eden flat, she found it was damp, draughty and covered in mould - clearly in breach of the standards.

She wanted to see more compliance from landlords as she took her own to the tenancy tribunal. From the outside her flat was a gorgeous retro villa.

But inside, the paint was peeling from the ceiling, the windows were leaking, there was no extractor fan in the bathroom, and there was mould - lots of mould.

Mould around the windows of Sarah Yates' flat in Mt Eden.

The mouldy and draughty windows in Sarah Yates' Mt Eden flat. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

Yates said she became worried about what it would do to her health so decided not to move in, even though she was still paying for her room. That meant she was paying two lots of rent, totalling $300 a week per flat.

Her two flatmates were not so lucky.

"The others, they had to move in because they couldn't pay double rent, I just feel like it would be great if they could be accountable and actually deliver what they said they were going to deliver, which is a healthy home," she said.

When she signed the lease Yates was told the house was up to Healthy Homes Standards, but she soon noticed the extent of the disrepair.

There were gaps around the doors which she said breached the requirements around draughts. The missing extractor fans in the bathrooms also meant the property did not comply. To make matters worse, the heater in the main living room did not work properly, she said.

Mould underneath the carpet at Sarah Yates' flat in Mt Eden, Auckland.

Peeling back the carpet also exposes the mould underneath in Sarah Yates' Mt Eden flat. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

Yates had independently commissioned a healthy homes report and had verbal confirmation that the property did not meet the standards.

But the property managers had done little to address the issues, she said.

"They clearly don't really care, or they know that they're not going to get in that much trouble, I'm still not even sure, when we go to the tenancy tribunal, how much trouble they're going to get in.

"Even these really basic Healthy Homes standard haven't been met, but there's been no accountability on the real estate agent to deliver even these really basic standards, so I think it needs to improve."

Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick agreed and said the country's rentals were in a dire state.

"It's abysmal, it is absolutely shocking the standards that we expect or allow the one-and-a-half-million New Zealanders in this country who rent to live in," she said.

Swarbrick wanted to establish rental warrants of fitness with an increased threshold for compliance.

"The government would have a handle of just how many of these companies are out there, but also ensure that there were universal high standards that were applied," she said.

"Then, there would be a certification process of all homes meeting the healthy homes standards and any other standards that we decided to apply through the regs."

The issue was not isolated to Auckland.

Renter's United president Geordie Rogers said he had heard stories like Yates' from all over the country.

"We certainly continue to hear stories of people who are told their home is Healthy Homes compliant, either for them to find out it's not compliant, or for, eventually, it to deteriorate and get to a state where the landlord's no longer keeping it compliant," he said.

Rogers said landlords needed to know they could not just turn a blind eye.

"If the landlord has to go in and inspect the home, either makes a false declaration about the condition of the home, or doesn't maintain it, it's not the home passively making that renter sick, that's an active decision that that landlord has decided to make."

The manager of Yates' Mt Eden flat, Ray White, told RNZ it was unable to comment because of the impending Tenancy Tribunal hearing.

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