Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Second family faces state house eviction

The family said water has been pouring down the walls since the rain started recently. Photo / iStock
The family said water has been pouring down the walls since the rain started recently. Photo / iStock

A second family is facing eviction from its Hamilton state house, despite a dramatic last-minute intervention by Work and Income which saved another family from eviction this morning.

Chartwell family Rob and Roselyn and their four children aged 15 to 10 owe $900 in rent arrears to Housing NZ and say they are willing to negotiate paying it off gradually.

But Housing NZ area manager Karan Frederikson says the family has been given "many opportunities" to arrange the payments and have not done so.

This Thursday a Tenancy Tribunal will hear Housing NZ's application to end the tenancy within 48 hours, and a cross-application by the family's advocate Graham McCready for $6001 in compensation from Housing NZ for failing to maintain health and safety in the house.

The family, who do not want their surnames quoted, said water has been running down internal walls around the chimney since the recent rain started.

"My sitting room is soaked in water and my kitchen has been covered in towels," Roselyn said.

The family attended an initial Tenancy Tribunal hearing last Thursday and saw other Housing NZ tenants being evicted.

"Three people who were there before us were all evicted on the spot or were given only two days to move out. They all came out in tears," Roselyn said.

Ironically, the evictions come just as the Government prepares to pay Aucklanders up to $5000 to move to social housing in Hamilton and other provincial towns.

Housing NZ dramatically withdrew an eviction notice against 49-year-old tenant Angela Eastham and her two adult disabled children today after the Herald reported that Ms Eastham had lost her job but her rent had not been reduced to 25 per cent of her reduced income.

Roselyn and her children have already been evicted once from a state house in the Bay of Plenty two years ago after Rob moved to Hamilton to get a job and they fell behind with the rent.

"I had to stay in my van with my kids for three or four weeks. We had to move around to different camping grounds," she said.

"Later we moved to my mother-in-law's place in Hamilton. It was a two-bedroom house with me and my partner and our four children in one room and my mother-in-law in the other room."

They stayed there until they got their current state house in Chartwell a year ago.

Rob's job ended about the same time and they lived for a period on a benefit.

"That was the first time we went into arrears with the rent. It was like seven weeks before they made me aware that there was no rent going in," Roselyn said.

"My understanding was that Work and Income was paying my rent."

They arranged to pay those arrears off gradually, and Rob eventually found another job. But the job lasted only three weeks and the family had to wait two weeks after that to get back on the benefit, and again fell behind on the rent.

This time they agreed to repay the arrears at $20 a week.

Five weeks ago Rob again found a job, but his hours fluctuate between about 20 and 40 hours a week, and they again missed several rent payments because the rent was no longer being paid directly by Work and Income and they owed money to relatives and others.

"We had family turning up on our doorstep claiming money on pay day," Roselyn said.

"My rent is not the only problem that I'm having. Our family vehicle is on hire purchase and is about to get taken, but I think the finance company is going to be more reasonable than Housing NZ."

The family has had two mediation meetings with Housing NZ, but Roselyn said they could not afford to repay the arrears at $150 or $180 a week as requested.

"We are poor people, that's why we are in a Housing NZ house," she said.

"I really don't know what to do. I am just heartbroken. I admit that I am at fault with arrears, but my children don't deserve to be on the road."

Ms Frederikson said seeking to end a tenancy was "always a last resort" and Housing NZ had tried to reach agreement with the family.

"We have struggled to engage with them regarding rent arrears, despite numerous attempts to make contact. We have also tried to put in place a rent arrears repayments of small regular payments," she said.

"These tenants moved into their home a year ago. The house had had a full upgrade prior to them moving in, and was in very good condition. We have had no jobs logged about maintenance required, and the first we knew of this was when they lodged a cross-application to the Tenancy Tribunal.

"We have given these tenants ample notice and many opportunities to address the issues with their rent, including two rounds of mediation."

- NZ Herald

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