The Green Party has today released a collection of stories showing how dire the rental situation is in Aotearoa.
“We put the call out for renters’ voices nearly a month ago and have been overwhelmed with the response. Far, far too many of the 1.4 million renting New Zealanders have horror stories – and without policy intervention, they’re living in a state sanctioned nightmare,” says the Green Party’s spokesperson for renters, Chlöe Swarbrick.
“We heard stories of families forced to pay through the roof to live in cold, damp, and mouldy homes that make them and their children sick.
“We heard of landlords raising rents while refusing time and time again to fix people’s homes to bring them up to even the most basic of standards.
“Many of these stories have been shared on the condition of anonymity, reinforcing the point about the well entrenched power imbalance that Parliament has so far ensured comes with renting in this country.
“This suffering is a political choice. Enough is enough.
“The Green Party knows Parliament ignores renters at their own political peril. We started this campaign and share these stories so renters know these are not one-off, individual issues, but so clearly systemic – and political.
“The time is now to ensure everyone in Aotearoa has a safe, dry and affordable home,” says Chlöe Swarbrick.
Five of the stories:
When we moved [into] our current flat there was already mould
present on the ceiling, no heat pump and a malfunctioning water
mixer making the shower almost completely unusable.
During our first inspection, the property manager (tall 50’s M)
raised his voice at my flatmate (small, 20F) for not being able to
keep control of the mould that had become a [constant] recurring
issue. The Auckland floods only made these issues [worse;] the
shower broke down completely and the mould got so bad that we
had to evacuate the premises due to my flatmate coughing up
blood, only then did they install a heat pump.
We were told that they couldn’t do anything about the mould on
their end and it had to be on us to simply continue to “stay on top
of it” (a task which was requiring us to mould treat every internal
exterior wall, multiple interior walls, a large section of our furniture
and both our beds weekly at this point) or move out (but of course
we’d be expected to continue paying rent until another tenant agrees to take the property on.)
Dunedin student flat: Our upstairs shower would leak into the
downstair toilet through the roof. We asked the landlord multiple
times to fix it. After a few months he came in (not wanting to hire
a plumber) and said it was the gutters full of leaves, so he cleared
those. It continued and we continued to ask him. Not wanting
to call a plumber again he ripped the ceiling out of the toilet and
“attempted” to fix the plumbing himself. Again, he did not fix the
problem and finally called a plumber. The plumber came and said
that delaying so long actually caused more damage, but he was
able to fix. Because the landlord was cheap, he left the ceiling in the
toilet in the state that the plumber had left it and we are not sure if he has fixed it after we moved out 6 months later
In 2018, due to (what was assumed was) ongoing damage
from the Christchurch earthquakes, our flat in Ilam had ongoing
issues with plumbing. This came to a head near the end of
the year, when a toilet simultaneously blocked and started to
constantly flow. In the early hours of the morning, we woke up
to raw sewage flowing out of the toilet into the upstairs carpet,
running up and down the walls, and dripping down into the carpet
on the bottom floor. We were advised to turn the pump off at the
street level, but because we shared water access with 4 other flats,
we couldn’t keep the water turned off forever. By the time we had
a plumber in to stop the continuous flow of water and sewage, we
had lost a lot of furniture, clothing, documents, etc to the water.
We were expected to continue to not only continue living in the
house, but continue paying full rent, despite the fact that we were
instructed not to use any running water throughout the house at all
(no toilet, showers, kitchen or bathroom sinks, or laundry). Several
sections of the house were unlivable, as carpet had been ripped up
throughout the house leaving exposed nails pointing directly up.
The sewage filled carpet itself was left directly under the kitchen
and bedroom windows. The smell was indescribable. To dry the
house out, the common areas held industrial fans that ran every
day at considerable volume for several weeks. When asked, we
were told it was our responsibility to pay the enormous power bill.
All four residents came down sick within the week and stayed sick
until we moved out. Three of us could not move out until the end of
the lease, which took two months. Two of the residents had throat
swabs done, both coming back with lung infections of bacteria
primarily found in the intestines.
As far as I know, the house is still untenanted. I still have some
photos, receipts, etc from the (unsuccessful) Tenancy Tribunal
hearing if interested.
(In addition, at one point one of the bathrooms were slated for
renovations, but this work quietly ended prior to completion. We
later discovered that this was likely due to undisclosed asbestos
in the house (we walked past the next year and the house was
covered in signs warning about the asbestos removal). We have
no idea if any of these renovations or the other work done after the
incident exposed us to asbestos.)
I have been renting since I left foster care / CYFs at 16. I
couldn’t have my name on the lease til 18. Just like in care, I have
had to move houses constantly. I have had to navigate landlords
who won’t fix mould. When my son was born in 2014 we had to
navigate freezing houses that meant we all had to sleep in the
lounge with an open fire to keep warm. We have had countless
bonds taken for lawns I was unable to mow due to not affording a
mower, many were unjust – like a landlord not liking the fact my son
had played with chalk outside. We have had our maara kai ripped out from our gardens as the landlord hadn’t planted it.
All us renters have stories to tell, and I’d love to go to the
media with them, but we are often too scared to get blacklisted by
rental agencies forever. They always do a reference check, they
always want to call your former landlords. If one of them says “she’s
that girl that spoke to the media, she’s causing issues” then that
might mean missing out on a place to sleep and live. The power
imbalances created by our inadequate rental laws are the real issue.