Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Leasehold property rules too loose, says unit holder

The lease is too complicated to understand, said Stephen Seuss, who owns a unit in Shed 23. Photo / Thinkstock
The lease is too complicated to understand, said Stephen Seuss, who owns a unit in Shed 23. Photo / Thinkstock

A national organisation of leasehold and apartment owners is being mooted after big bill increases on Auckland's Princes Wharf.

Stephen Suess, with a unit in Shed 23 on the waterfront, says rules governing such properties are too loose and his bills have risen hugely since he bought the property in 2005.

"With body corporate fees, there needs to be some sort of ground rules on how these are run," Suess said.

"New Zealand has consumer protection laws on the purchase of just about anything. Why not for apartments?

"In our building I've been told (by) my own and others' lawyers that the lease we have is so complicated that no one understands it. This should not be so."

John Briers, chairman for Shed 23 and the main owners' representative for that property, hit back at Suess.

"It's a great shame that an emotional outburst from one owner out of 82 has the potential to financially harm the apartment owners on Princes Wharf," Briers said.

He took issue with bill figures from Suess, saying charges were in fact much lower.

"The fact is that operating costs on the wharf have risen but nowhere near the 207 per cent claimed by him," Briers said.

"He has arrived at this figure by including the ground rent (lease) into the equation when in fact this has nothing to do with the operating expenses (body corporate)."

The ground rent had only gone up by 10 per cent since 2005 and the next rent review would not be until September 2014.

"As they say, true wisdom comes from being in possession of the true facts," Briers said.

Mark French, director of the wharf's site manager Dockland Management, said fee increases were in line with those in the area, particularly the Viaduct nearby.

Wharf property owners were not dissatisfied and the buildings required money to be spent to keep them up to a high standard at the property which was probably one of the country's most prestigious pieces of real estate, French said.

But Suess remains unhappy and is calling for change.

"I think there needs to be a national organisation of leasehold and apartment owners to represent us and our positions when it comes to negotiating with developers and the Government about laws," he said.

"Until we have this, apartment and land lease owners are basically and totally at the mercy of the land owners and developers."

One Auckland developer said: "It's not leasehold that's the issue but the structure of it and it is also the way we value land which is not the way land is valued internationally."

- NZ Herald

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