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Renters v Landlords: The horror stories from Renters United report - 23rd Aug 2017

Renters v Landlords: The horror stories from Renters United report Renters United's report on tenants' experiences paints a picture of some renters feeling trapped in an existence of instability in poor-quality rental houses.

The People's Review of Renting contains anonymised extracts from 610 renters' experiences, crowdsourced by the Action Station online platform.

Some of the stories - assuming them to be true - suggest that despite tenants being able to take complaints to the Tenancy Tribunal, some landlords are not living up to their legal duty to supply homes fit for human habitation.

Renters United claims that landlord abuses are possible because, as housing academic Philippa-Howden-Chapman said: "Tenants worry that if they complain their rents will rise or they could be evicted."

Renters United has called for the Tenancy Tribunal to be beefed up, and for an end to "no fault" evictions where landlords can simply give tenants 90 days to vacate without having to give a reason.

One renter said: "I feel utterly vulnerable to the whims of landlords, and with little to no protection or stability, I find it difficult to feel like I have a home. My myriad experiences living in Auckland … were mostly marked by the same pattern - the owner wanted to sell, and we were given rather short notice to move out … In the span of two years, I had moved house five times due to landlords deciding to sell … The costs of moving are so expensive, with having to have enough liquid assets to afford to cover two bonds at once, and to rent a truck or movers … and take time off work to do it … to having to pay double rent if we need to have overlapping days so we can move our things."

Another said: "I usually need to move house every 12 months due to landlords selling the house I live in to realise their capital gain. This has happened three years in a row and it costs me upwards of $1500 for movers and cleaners and uses up my annual leave. Emotionally exhausting. No security at all when renting."

Another said: "With stories of rental shortages I feel very vulnerable that we could be homeless at any point ... When I walk past a homeless person on the street I am really aware now that this could be me."

One said: "I've been in the home for about a month now and instantly my son got sick due to how cold the home was. Sure there's an open fire place which cost about $100 a fortnight in wood, paper, fire starters to keep us warm. I want to point out that an open fire place isn't enough to keep a three bedroom home warm, not to mention the floors are wooden! I tried my very best to keep the house as warm as possible, putting sheets over the doors and under door frames to stop drafts seeping in, but it still did not feel good enough. As a mum I was completely heart broken knowing how cold this home was is the reason my son had this cold he could not shake off."

A Christchurch renter said: "We have been living in a cold, damp and mouldy house for over two years now. We have three children that are constantly getting sick - we have to throw away quite a bit of kids toys and clothes, etc, due to mould. Our conservatories are always leaking when it rains, still failed attempts from landlord on repairing them with Selleys No More Gaps or something like that resulting in the lost use of both conservatories. There is no ventilation in the bathroom and toilet resulting in mould and water dripping from ceiling."

Bad housing reduces mental wellbeing, said one: "The flat was drafty, cold, mouldy. The floors sagged and tilted, the stairs down were unlit … Two dehumidifiers were on constant rotation throughout the house - one night in each room, and full to the brim by morning … I would be very confident in saying this flat helped extend my five colds that year, and certainly didn't provide a safe space for me to rest after working 8am - 8pm towards completing the final year of my BSc. That year I also developed anxiety, and went through depressive periods - warmth and sunshine would not have gone amiss."


One Wellington mother said: "I live in a rental house with my partner and our young children. I am pregnant with our third baby. After many years of living in Wellington I am used to unusual access to flats - up and down stairs/paths etc. However, our current house is worse than most. It is up 25 very steep and slippery wooden steps. The landing at the top has horizontal bars which create a very rickety barrier to the concrete metres below. The bars are very tempting and easy for my small children to climb. Architect and builder friends have told me that the steps and landing are very poor quality and by their design would never meet current or even old building codes. Our landlord is cantankerous and unpredictable - I dread when things break as he always makes a big deal of it."

"At the first open to view we attend in this pokey small semi detached flat I was greeted with 20 pairs of shoes," said one renter. "Inside there was a maul of people thrusting CVs in the rental agent's face while shouting why they would make the best tenants. Confined to a small space with all these people I had my fIrst ever panic attack and had to leave."

Another said: "When we would get to a rental property there would be massive queues there to check it out. Often it was even pointless going any further than the front gate of the property. My boyfriend and I were turned away as we weren't 'family enough'. I have everything needed to get a rental: Perfect rental payment history for 19 years, referees from reputable letting agents, above average wage, clear credit history, four years work stability, all the bond, rent and letting fee upfront, and never been unemployed. We ended up taking an overpriced run down house full of mold and leaks and a section that hadn't been tended to for years. We got desperate." 

One said: "We were here for 19 months before 4 light [fittings] were replaced and working. It was inconvenient being without them all that time … We waited 19 months for a plumbing job to be done and the toilet was leaking for 10 months. I several times reported it …"
 - Stuff

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