Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Horror tenants frustrate landlord

Owner left chasing $6000 in unpaid rent and thousands of dollars for repairs after properties left in squalor

Di Maxwell says she found dirty nappies, used condoms and rats eating rubbish at her three-bedroom rental.
Di Maxwell says she found dirty nappies, used condoms and rats eating rubbish at her three-bedroom rental.

A landlord whose property was left in squalor by a tenant owing more than $6000 rent and another who caused $28,000 damage, says owning rental properties is fraught with difficulties.

And she's not alone. Many landlords give up and sell their properties because of bad experiences, according to the New Zealand Property Investors' Federation.

Di Maxwell, a Far North District councillor, was dismayed to find dirty nappies, used condoms, rats eating rotting rubbish, and general "filth" in her three-bedroom Haruru Falls rental near Paihia.

Have you had a similar experience? We'd like your story and photos. Email us here.

She said she'd been having problems with the tenant for nearly a year. After numerous warnings, requests for damage in the house to be repaired and complaints from neighbours about rats, she gave the tenant an eviction notice.

However, with 42 days to leave, the tennant then stopped paying her rent and water - both already overdue.

That left nearly $6000 in outstanding bills and around $9000 worth of damage - from ruined carpet to a kitchen where the doors were left hanging off their hinges. A tenancy tribunal hearing has resulted in an order for the tenant to pay the money but Ms Maxwell is now having to go through Winz to get the weekly payments of around $25.

It's the second time Ms Maxwell and her husband have had to evict a tenant from a property.

"Both of them have just been pigs," Ms Maxwell said. The first eviction several years ago from a cottage on the same property cost the couple $28,000 when the tenant trashed the house, ripping off kitchen cupboards, allowing a flooded washing machine to rot floorboards and leaving trailer loads of junk behind including old mattresses, clothing and appliances.

They had to replace carpet, the kitchen stove and the rotten floor, and took the woman to the Tenancy Tribunal where she was ordered to pay $12,000, at $25 a week.

The couple have owned the property for about eight years and Ms Maxwell said though "not flash" the houses, rented for a total $500 a week, were sound residences.

She said she was sick of landlords getting a bad rap. "People seem to think landlords are raking in the money for little work, and are making money from 'poor' people who can't afford homes.

"This place is not even covering costs, but we live in hope that it might be a reasonable retirement income for us one day."

New Zealand Property Investors' Federation executive officer Andrew King said it was heartbreaking for landlords when their properties were maliciously damaged.

"It is really soul-destroying when you rent out a place and you put a bit of pride into it and people just trash it," Mr King said.

"Most people that I meet who sell up do so because ... they've had a gutsful."

About 45,000 applications are made to the Tenancy Tribunal every year, of which 90 per cent are from landlords.

Of those the most common complaint is unpaid rent, while damage to the property is the second-most common problem.

Barfoot & Thompson director Kiri Barfoot said terrible tenants often came with warning signs.

"If people need something yesterday, why? Have they been evicted from a previous tenancy?"

There were other ways to penalise bad tenants, including reporting the case to credit controllers and with the publication of the Tenancy Tribunal order against them.

The lay of the landlord

• 32% of New Zealand's 1.5 million homes are rentals.

• Rents are relatively low in New Zealand compared to other countries.

• A study by the NZPIF on the cost of renting versus owning a home shows it is $158 a week cheaper to rent the average Kiwi home than to own it.

Tips for landlords

• Carefully select and fully vet tenants first, including qualified references and credit checks.

• Take out special landlord insurance.

• Make regular inspections and keep written records.

• Issue a 14-day notice for a tenant to fix damage, clean up, stop loud noise, or pay rent arrears.

• Issue a 90-day notice of termination of the tenancy.

• Make application to the Tenancy Tribunal for eviction.

• Employ a property management company.

Next story: Room for rent with alfresco kitchen

- NZ Herald

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