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Landlords forced to repair flat - PN

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  • Landlords forced to repair flat - PN

    Landlords forced to repair flat
    03 March 2006

    A bay villa in the heart of Palmerston North's most popular student rental area has been notified as insanitary by Palmerston North City Council.

    The landlords, Steve and Sandra Rowe, were charging $360 a week - $60 a room - for the six-bedroom house in Ada Street. They said they intend to repair the building to get it up to standard.

    Council principal building officer Robbie Walker said the Rowes had until March 31 to repair the place, and could not let the house to anyone until the repairs had been done.

    "It's not fit to live in," he said. "They (the Rowes) have already started to put it right, to be fair to them."

    Necessary repairs included recladding parts of the building where rain had been getting in, fixing leaking showers and repiling one corner of the house, he said.

    It was rare to issue an insanitary notice under the Building Act 2004, he said. The idea is to give owners time to fix problems.

    "We'd only do a handful each year. The penalties are quite severe if owners don't comply; the fines are up to $200,000 and if they exceed the deadline for repairs, and up to $20,000 per day that they go over. It very rarely comes to that, though, and the owners have told me they've got the work in hand."

    The Rowes would have to apply to the council when the repairs were finished, to have the insanitary notice lifted, so the house could be inhabited again.

    The house had been let to a group of six Massey University students, on a long-term lease.

    Manawatu Tenants Union coordinator Kevin Reilly said he was glad the council was taking action about the house. He was outspoken about the city's responsibility to ensure students had good accommodation, when he inspected the house on the tenants' behalf on February 14. The Manawatu Standard also attended this inspection.

    The Standard met the Rowes at the property on February 20, at the time the council was deciding which legislation to use to close the property for repairs. After this meeting Mr Walker told the Standard he had told Mr Rowe the property was not fit to live in.

    Mrs Rowe said the tenants went into the lease agreement with "their eyes wide open" about the property's condition. She noted the tenants had never actually complained or tried to talk to them about what needed to be fixed, as they were required to do under the Residential Tenancies Act. Instead, they had gone to the tenants' union, the council and the media.

    Mr Rowe said he believed it was a case of a group of tenants trying to get out of a fixed lease, because they no longer wished to flat together. They had signed the lease in November 2005, promising to rent it until November 2006. They owed the Rowes several weeks' rent when the communication problems started. Some of the tenants had also not paid their share of the $180 summer retainer rental that they had agreed to.

    Mr Rowe said they were willing to fix any faults in the building.

    "Healthy and safety issues, of course we're going to fix them. We're not trying to duckshove anyone."

    Both said there was a strong demand in Palmerston North for this type of student rental. They had never had to advertise the property to get tenants; there were always students who wanted to live in it because of its location and style of living.

    The tenants have since found other accommodation.

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