An Auckland small business has been paying thousands of dollars a month to rent an inner city office with dirty, brown water spilling out of the kitchen taps.

Business owner Katie West said staff had been forced to bring in outside drinking water for the past seven weeks after dirty liquid began running regularly from their upmarket Freemans Bay rental's taps in November.

Other times they ran the taps for up to five minutes to get clearer liquid they could then boil twice to make safe to drink.

Their College Hill office was earlier rented by National MP Nikki Kaye, with West saying she had paid about $5700 in rent since calling on property managers to urgently fix the problem on November 19.

Business owner Katie West says these bottles show the dirty water running from the taps in her commercial rental. The furthest right bottle was from an outside water source. Photo / Supplied
Business owner Katie West says these bottles show the dirty water running from the taps in her commercial rental. The furthest right bottle was from an outside water source. Photo / Supplied

Property manager Letty Ho from James Law Realty sympathised with West, saying she was "so sorry for the water", but that her team had been doing their best to fix the problem.

"Until today we are still working on it but the result is not satisfying - this is why I understand the tenant is not happy," she said.

Property owner Olive Chen also said she was doing her best to pinpoint the problem and fix it.

But West felt the delays were partly deliberate because the rental owner didn't want to pay for repairs.

"I've said to them a few times that, "I feel that you are actually just making this really difficult to force us out and have us break the lease, which we pay for," she said.

Chen "categorically denied" this, saying she and her husband were honest family people with young kids and that was not how they did business.

But West said the dirty water was just one of a series of maintenance jobs that were slow to be repaired at the rental.

These included a "dangerous" rear staircase that became "unusable" in the wet and windows that didn't open, she said.


West said she didn't know where to turn to next because the Tenancy Tribunal and Auckland Council seemed geared to ensuring residential tenants received clean drinking water and other services but didn't act for commercial tenants.

However, Ho said she had been going step-by-step through the process of solving the dirty water problem and it was taking time.

At first, she sought advice from water suppliers Watercare, who later advised her the problem was not with their pipes.

Then she brought in a plumber, who isolated the problem to being with the property's pipes. However, this visit was just before the Christmas-New Year break and so there was another delay.

That plumber was then advised he couldn't dig near the city water pipes without a specialist from the Auckland's water supplier being present to check.

The first available water specialist could now only be onsite later this week, Ho said.

She said the back stairs - which West had first raised as a health and safety problem in September - were now also partially fixed and due to be fully fixed soon.

"We have been working on it, and also the owners have been here as well," she said.

"I asked the landlord couple to go to the premises and talk face to face with the tenants about the issues."

"And they visited - why'd they go there, because they want to get a solution on it."

Chen also said it had not been easy to pinpoint what the problem was as they dealt with Watercare and brought qualified plumbers onto the site.

"It's like an ongoing process of finding where the problem lies, it's not so much a case of there's a faulty light and we can fix it or there's a faulty toilet, it's not something that can easily pinpoint and fix," she said.

"I believe we've taken all reasonable steps to get it sorted and we've met with her in person and discussed it.

But West said it was unacceptable to be without drinking for weeks on end and endure other ongoing maintenance delays in such an upmarket rental.

"One builder will come and I will hear them say under their breath, 'the landlord didn't like the quote', another one will come, 'landlord didn't like the quote, landlord said it was too expensive'."

"To date, we have had no reliable action from the property manager or landlord, who is trying to have us relocate before our lease is up."