John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Nat MPs' rentals cold, damp

Rebekah Brittin in her rented Dominion St home. Photo / Michael Craig
Rebekah Brittin in her rented Dominion St home. Photo / Michael Craig

Tenants of three Government MPs live in cold, damp homes where the insulation is inadequate or non-existent.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman, who lives in a $1.74 million waterfront house on Auckland's Northcote Point, is owner or trustee of two small rental properties.

In one, in Summer St, Ponsonby, one of the tenants said the house was cold in winter and she thought it had made her sick. An insulation inspector said it had some ceiling insulation but nothing underfloor.

In another, in Dominion St, Takapuna, pregnant mum Rebekah Brittin said she was worried for the health of her three-year-old son and her baby, due in summer.

Her two-bedroom unit seemed to grow green, furry mould everywhere, she said, and she spent most of last weekend, mop in hand, scrubbing it off the ceilings.

"Now the house just smells like bleach," she said.

Last week, Prime Minister John Key warned the Government could use either incentives or regulation to ensure landlords get their properties up to an adequate standard. Only 5 per cent of rental homes were insulated, he said.

Yesterday, Coleman's press secretary Stephen Parker admitted the two properties' ownership details only after the intervention of the Prime Minister's office.

"Jonathan Coleman is not the owner of the Dominion St property," Parker said in an emailed statement. "He has been appointed by the property owner as a trustee of the Corinth Trust. He receives no financial benefit from that trust, no rental from the property, and is not involved in the management of the Dominion St property.

"In regards to Summer St, it has ceiling insulation. Jonathan Coleman and the current tenant signed a sale and purchase agreement on August 31 for the sale of the property to the tenant."

Coleman is not the only National MP to rent out poorly insulated property. Another North Shore MP, Cam Calder, owns a rental in Ngataringa Rd, Devonport. His tenant there, Vanda Breslin says she is concerned about the lack of insulation, "because it gets so cold. But if I was to do anything about it, it would need to come through the landlord. I wouldn't feel comfortable doing anything about it myself," she said.

And MP Jian Yang owns an uninsulated weatherboard house in Jolson Rd, Mt Wellington. Tenant Joshua Tuitupou said the MP had asked him to get a Community Services Card to get a bigger Government subsidy to insulate the house.

If the tenant has a Community Services Card, the landlord can claim a subsidy of up to $2500 to insulate the house; without the card, the maximum subsidy is $1300.

Tuitupou said he had been living there 11 years: it was cold in winter and there was no insulation under the floor or in the ceiling. He'd spoken to Yang about insulation. "He told me it's quite expensive."

Neither Calder nor Yang could be reached for comment.

- Herald on Sunday

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