Tenants pay $200-plus to share 'slum' with rats

Inspectors find rot, mould and vermin in boarding house catering to homeless.

Walls and floors caked with dirt have led to Auckland Council serving health notices on the owner of a Grey Lynn boarding house described as a "slum".

Council inspectors saw a rat and took note of rotted cupboards in the kitchen and bathroom of the two-storey building at 454 Great North Rd, a former convent next to St Joseph's primary school in Grey Lynn. The property is for sale and has attracted real estate offers of over $5 million.

"It's a slum in the heart of the city," said councillor Mike Lee, who requested council send in a team to inspect the premises.

The owner, Rentyn Turner, would not comment when approached by the Herald at the boarding house.

He has a month to fumigate the building, and arrange for cleaning and building repairs.

Failure to comply with council demands could lead to prosecution. Grant Barnes, general manager of licensing and compliance services at council, said the maximum penalty is $200,000.

Environmental health officers allege that Turner, as the landlord of the boarding house, is in breach of numerous health and hygiene standards.

Their inspection revealed:

• Evidence of rat infestation. Inspectors saw a rat on the premises.

• "Extremely dirty conditions" in the kitchen, with dirt accumulated on the walls and floors

• Cracked and peeling ceiling paint in the kitchen and bathrooms.

• Mould growth is evident on the ceilings.

• Piles of food waste in the backyard.

• "Unpleasant odour within the premises."

About 20 tenants live in the boarding house. Auckland City Mission CEO Chris Farrelly said, "It would be the most unsafe place I could think of. You'd be a lot safer just sitting under a bridge."

He said the City Mission regarded the tenants as essentially homeless, because the boarding house was sub-standard.

Labour deputy leader Jacinda Ardern is campaigning for the place to be closed down.

The kitchen at 454 Great North Road, Grey Lynn. Photo / Michael Craig
The kitchen at 454 Great North Road, Grey Lynn. Photo / Michael Craig

"I don't think it should be a boarding house anymore. Unless he [Turner] is willing to give that place an entire re-do, and house people safely and properly, I don't think he deserves the right to be a landlord there.

"In my view no one should be inhabiting a place that doesn't have basic standards."

City Mission staff say that many of the tenants have mental health problems, as well as drug and alcohol dependencies. Ardern said that St Joseph's primary school has had to be locked down twice because of incidents at the lodge.

Mike Lee said police were at the boarding house when he was there recently. Tenants reported an altercation between two of the residents involving a meat cleaver.

JLL real estate listed the property in March last year.

Lead agent Nick Hargreaves said it provided an ideal opportunity for developers wanting to build high-density residential accommodation as encouraged by the Unitary Plan.

"It's the talk of the town," he said.

He claimed potential buyers have mentioned offers from $4m to over $5m.

Tenants pay about $200 to $240 a week for rooms at the boarding house. If the building is sold, Chris Farrelly from City Mission said he expected many would be forced to live on the streets.

"It is highly likely just about everyone will be back on the streets of Auckland. Simple as that. They will be turfed out. They'll be the streeties, they'll be here at the Mission."

- NZ Herald

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