Tauranga Budget Advisory Service holds satellite clinics in Te Puke three days a week. We spoke to manager Shirley McCombe about the issues renters are facing in the town.
Are there people who are having to reduce their budget on food, power, clothing in order to meet rental payments?
Absolutely, it is one of the reasons foodbanks are so busy. All sorts of expenses are not paid; food, phone, electricity, loan repayments, insurances get dropped and kids miss out on extracurricular activities.
What are the consequences of falling behind on rent payments and what advice do you have to prevent people getting in this situation or if they find themselves in this situation?
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Come and see us is the first thing. The longer you ignore it, the bigger the arrears and the harder it is to resolve. Ultimately it may result in eviction and a poor credit score that will make it harder to rent in the future.
If they work with us, we will ensure they are getting all the support they are entitled to.
We will work on a plan to manage costs and speak with the landlord so they know that they are trying to sort the problem.
Taking on a boarder is often a good option but for many people, this is not possible.
What is the situation like in Te Puke regarding rent levels and the impact that is having on people compared to this time last year and this time two years ago?
Rents are increasing all the time. It is the biggest challenge we see and Te Puke does not escape. During kiwifruit, it is even harder because of the huge influx of people into the area. Sadly, when accommodation is tight, people will accept living in appalling situations just to have a roof over their head. Not all landlords follow the rules and people are too scared to speak up because they have nowhere else to go.
Seasonal workers often get priority and this makes it harder for the local homeless community.
What impact do rising rents have on tenants?
It is a big problem regardless of whether people are working or on benefit. The accommodation allowance is capped and based on the region, level of income, size of family, etc. What is not covered by the allowance comes out of core benefit or wages and many are left with very little.
When people are struggling week to week, they cannot come up with bonds, weeks in advance, etc. WINZ can sometimes help but this may be recoverable.
What frame of mind are people in when they seek budget advice?
People tend to come to us very stressed and often frightened, particularly when they have children and nowhere to go.