The first set of regulations for Healthy Homes Standards will go into effect in just two weeks, but there are concerns that some homes still fall short. 1 NEWS discovered that a group of Wellington tenants were living with holes in their bathroom floors and an infestation of insects.
The smell of damp and rot hits the moment you walk through the door.
A group of Wellington tenants are living with holes in their bathroom floors and an infestation of insects. Source: 1 NEWS
Not only is this Newtown apartment musty and damp, but a group of women have been living with holes in their bathroom floors for over six months – something that needed to be fixed by mid-March.
The house is rented for $ 870 per week as a four bedroom house. The OneRoof and homes.co.nz real estate websites list the house as a two bedroom property.
Piper Clare and Samantha Brown told 1 NEWS that they felt like they ran into brick walls every time they asked for things to be fixed.
“It doesn’t seem like an urgent issue for them,” Clare said.
One of the four roommates who did not want to be identified also received blisters from a suspected lax beetle infestation.
A roommate, who did not want to be identified, received blisters from a suspected lax beetle infestation. Source: provided
Beetles are attracted to rotten wood and release liquid onto human skin if they come in contact with it.
“She couldn’t sit properly for a while, she had to stand or lie on her back because it hurt so much to sit,” Brown said.
The blisters became infected during healing. This meant that the woman had to follow a course of antibiotics prescribed by her doctor.
Since the women filed a complaint about the house with the company that runs it, 1 NEWS understands that the company said it would reimburse the tenant for his medical bills, telling the women he was “unhappy “that the tenant has suffered the blisters.
The property is managed by Wellington real estate boutique, Lowe & Co.
1 NEWS may reveal that the owners of the property also work for the business.
When Victoria University of Wellington students signed the rental agreement in December 2020, an additional agreement was signed with the property manager stating that the holes in the bathroom floor would be fixed “within the first three months. rental ”.
As of June 18, 2021, the holes had still not been repaired.
Holes in the bathroom floor of a Wellington apartment. Source: 1 NEWS
After filing a complaint with Lowe & Co about the myriad of issues, the women learned that the company couldn’t find a written agreement about the holes anywhere and the property manager couldn’t remember.
It was only after 1 NEWS inquiries that the company acknowledged the document existed, but insisted the issue “was not ignored” but rather “did” not dealt with in a timely manner, in part for reasons beyond our control, “citing one builder. who did not show up.
Lowe & Co says it is working to find a solution now, with a second contractor hired to fix the bathroom.
Clare said during her recent visit that the contractor feared someone might fall through the rotten wood.
“He said the whole bathroom needed to be replaced and you shouldn’t be standing on the floor because he was afraid one of us might fall through.”
Other problems in the bathroom include cracks in the shower wall, the structure moving to the touch.
The tenants’ complaint also mentioned the need to throw away the clothes after they got moldy.
The company said it did not find this acceptable, but also noted “this is a Wellington risk that requires tenant management.”
1 NEWS also understands that she offered to reimburse the tenant with the beetle bulbs, as she threw out her bedding after the incident.
Another problem was frequent leakage from part of the ceiling near the kitchen. The girls leave towels on the floor all the time because of this.
The company again stated that this was not acceptable, but that the problem was “in the process of action”.
There is also a rodent problem. A pest controller also recently visited the house and found rat droppings in the ceiling.
The women had previously spotted mice in the house, so they assumed the late-night noises were coming from them.
Piper Clare and Samantha Brown live in a ruined Wellington apartment. Source: 1 NEWS
Clare and Brown claim that the pest controller audibly said “rude” in response to what it found in the ceiling and that “you usually don’t get both [rats and mice]”.
He also pointed out a space between the gutter and the roof that was close to tree branches as the possible entry point for rodents.
Ashok Jacob of Renters United said the house was “manifestly contrary to human health”.
“These types of places are asking to be regulated because they are hurting so many people.”
He said it was not only students who had to live in homes like this, but also professionals and families.
“The reality is in Wellington and across the country people with families are still living in places like this due to the state of properties in our country,” he told 1 NEWS.
The girls say Lowe & Co asked them if they wanted to move. The company says there will be no charge for early termination of the lease.
He also told 1 NEWS that he accepts responsibility for the way the property has been managed, indicating that there has since been a change in property manager recently.
The girls say moving would pose another problem for them: finding a new rental property.
It took them five months to find the one they are currently having so much trouble with.
“It sounds like a huge power imbalance. It feels like there is nothing we can do and that they are in charge and they know they have the upper hand on us so they won’t do anything about it.
“We know the apartments in Wellington aren’t exactly the best, but if they fixed these things it would be liveable.”
The company also offered to waive the rent for the time needed to renovate the bathroom, estimated at around three weeks.
He will also cover the moving costs incurred.
1 NEWS described the condition of the house as it stood on June 16, 2021 to Building and Construction Minister Poto Williams.
In response, she said: “No one should live like this.”
The first set of regulations for the Healthy Homes Standard will come into effect in just two weeks.
Beginning in July, all private rental properties will be required to comply with Healthy Homes regulations within 90 days of any new tenancies, including tenancy renewals.
The women filed a complaint with the Rental Services Compliance and Investigation team, after filing 14 days’ notice for the issues to be resolved.
The team can use a number of interventions and enforcement activities to ensure owners are meeting their obligations under the Act.
Additional reporting by Nichola Scarlett.
If you know more about this story, please contact 1 NEWS reporter Imogen Wells – [email protected]