Mason Pendrous' family were chased for unpaid hostel bills while the university student lay dead in his room, his stepfather claims.

Anthony Holland says he emailed University of Canterbury asking after his son in August, at least a month before the 19-year-old's body was found.

Pendrous died at least four weeks before his remains were discovered in his hostel.

But neither the university nor accommodation provider Campus Living Villages (CLV) has been able to tell him when they last made contact with Pendrous.

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It was only when Holland asked the young man's friends to check on him that one climbed on to the roof at the Sonoda halls of residence and looked into his room that his body was found.

Holland made the claims on RNZ's Checkpoint programme last night, saying he was still waiting for answers on how and when Pendrous had died and who had seen him last.

The first-year e-commerce student was found in his room on September 23. Initial reports suggested Pendrous could have been dead eight weeks.

But Holland said he'd since been told Pendrous may have been dead for only four weeks before being found.

He said he had tried to contact his son many times via text, phone and email but put the lack of response down to Pendrous being a typical teenager.

"It was only really when his phone went from answer phone and calling to 'number not available'. And suddenly it raised a little bit of suspicion in my mind," he told RNZ.

He texted Pendrous' friend, who contacted another friend in the hall.

"This young man decided something wasn't quite right," Holland said.

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"To the best of my knowledge, he climbed up over the roof and around, and realised something was wrong, and contacted security, who entered the room."

Holland had raised Pendrous since age 4. His mother died of breast cancer five years ago and their bond had become very tight since then, he told RNZ.

The pair last spoke on July 19.

"I'd just gone to bed, and he was a very happy young man at that point, at 11 o'clock on a Friday night as you can imagine," he told the station.

Holland said he'd made numerous attempts to contact Pendrous since then and had emailed the university in August asking after his son.

"I just feel a bit frustrated that nobody, either at the university or at CLV chose after four or five weeks to chase him up. To find out why he'd not been to lectures, to find out why he'd not eaten," he told RNZ.

"They swipe in for food. He didn't swipe in. So at some point, an alarm bell must rise and say, 'Hang on, he's not eaten here for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, whatever it is'."

Police had been in contact every day but since the initial press release, contact from CLV had been non-existent, he claimed.

Normally CLV sent Pendrous bills, and he forwarded them to Holland. But when one went unpaid, "they then chased me looking for payment of a bill which was outstanding. At that point, he was more than likely already deceased."

Pendrous was a "gregarious, good kid" who was excited about his university adventure.

"He was a good boy. He was straight up. He told me he was working, he was studying hard, he was finding the hostel food was okay.

He did not believe Pendrous had any mental health issues.

Holland said CLV group managing director John Schroder had told him of 12 deaths in Campus Living Villages accommodation around the world in the past 13 months, he told RNZ.

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Holland said they could not bring Pendrous' body back to Wellington. He had to be cremated in Christchurch.

Ex-judge Kit Toogood is leading an independent investigation into Pendrous' death on behalf of the university.

Holland criticised the investigation's terms of reference which he felt did not focus on the university's shortfalls.

"I'd like them to know why I didn't hear, or a parent doesn't hear for a period of time, that somebody is not going to their lectures. I need to know that this isn't going to happen to another dad."

CLV told the Herald it would not publicly discuss matters that would form part of the inquiry because it would be inappropriate to comment. CLV had provided input to the terms of reference, a spokeswoman said.

"There are many aspects that require thorough and independent investigation and Mr Toogood is the appropriate person for that role."

The university has also been contacted for comment.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins extended deepest sympathies to Pendrous' family and friends.

"I'm looking at the regulatory rules and requirements around student accommodation as a result of this tragedy and intend to progress the issue as a matter of highest priority."