An elderly woman is at risk of losing her retirement village apartment - and it's all over a dispute with the owners about two windows and a walkway.
Metlifecare, owner of the Waitakere Gardens village in Henderson, has accused tenant Sandra Williams of basically abandoning her apartment and causing "nuisance, annoyance and distress".
But Williams is sticking to her guns in a row that revolves around two apartment windows that no longer open, a newly enclosed walkway, beefed-up fire regulations, and consultation.
Williams, 74, moved into the Henderson village in 2009, before Metlifecare bought it.
In February last year she moved into a temporary apartment while major work was done on the block in which she owns a licence to occupy a three-bedroom apartment.
She said she has claustrophobia and chose her apartment because its good air-flow from open windows makes her feel better.
Part of the renovation work - which began as leaky-building repairs - involved replacing two opening windows with non-opening windows; one is in a small bedroom and the other is beside the door into the communal walkway leading to the lift and stairs.
The walkway, previously open to the weather, was enclosed, largely with glass walls, plus two louvre panels.
Williams is now defying Metlifecare demands to move back into her original apartment saying it's not what she brought into.
"I can't," she said. "It isn't finished yet."
She maintains Metlifecare failed in its obligation to consult her properly about the changes to the apartment. The company has apologised to her on that point.
However, chief executive Glen Sowry said the company had done all it could to accommodate her and had now reached the end of the road.
"We pride ourselves on being able to work constructively with residents to do everything to resolve these issues."
In his three years with the company it hadn't previously issued a notice of intention to force out a resident. Asked if Metlifecare had done it before him, he said, "I don't know. If we have, it's extremely rare."
A spokesman for Ryman, New Zealand's largest stock-exchange-listed retirement village owner-operator, said in his six years there he hadn't heard of a resident's occupation licence being terminated.
Retirement Villages Association president Graham Wilkinson said he had heard of a living resident's licence terminated but not "without strong health grounds and real necessity".
A resident couldn't be kicked out for being "troublesome".
The Williams wrangle is set to go before a disputes panel, which gives her a temporary reprieve.
Sowry said the non-opening windows had to be fitted to comply with the latest fire regulations that aimed to prevent a fire in an apartment spreading to others or to communal areas. An independent review had found the air-flow in Williams' apartment was good.
"With the enclosed walkway, we were required under the new Building Code. If we had left it open to the elements as it was before, we would have … had to build a lip on each door entry which would have been … inappropriate for an older resident and would have created a trip hazard."
But he acknowledged the enclosed walkways became too hot in mid-summer and a fix was being devised to ensure the problem was resolved by next summer.
He said Williams' refusal to leave her temporary apartment was preventing another resident moving into it, which in turn was holding up work on another block. Residents who had moved already were distressed over the delay and the contractor was losing money.
If Williams' occupation agreement is ended, she will pay Metlifecare 29 per cent of her 2009 licence payment under the terms of the contract. She said the balance would leave her unable to buy another place.
The notice of intention to terminate the agreement, dated May 16, gave her a month to move back in to her apartment. It says if she doesn't, the company will issue a one-month notice of termination. She has also been told that if she doesn't vacate the temporary apartment by next Thursday, Metlifecare would have "no choice but to re-enter and take possession".
Sowry wouldn't discuss how the re-possession might be done.
He said the formal lodging of a dispute put the licence termination process on hold until the disputes panel had given its decision.