A retired Taranaki woman battled with Housing New Zealand for months to repair a leak in her kitchen that had rotted the floor and spread mould through her cupboards.

When Maureen Ansell finally managed to sort repairs after her daughter Angela Marsh intervened, the builder found water was not only under the sink but most of the kitchen floor, and had even spread up the wall.

Marsh was again forced to fight for Housing NZ to provide her 70-year-old retired mother with temporary accommodation while the Inglewood home she had lived in for 15 years was repaired.

Maureen Ansell had to fight for repairs to her rotting housing New Zealand home in Inglewood. Photo / Ilona Hanne
Maureen Ansell had to fight for repairs to her rotting housing New Zealand home in Inglewood. Photo / Ilona Hanne

"I feel disgusted, and let down," Ansell said.

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The repairs began on Tuesday, a day after the Government announced its final healthy homes standards, setting minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage.

Marsh first noticed dampness issues in the kitchen of the two-bedroom unit in September last year, while her mother was in Australia.

Once the builder pulled up the floor he found the water had spread up the wall. Photo / Supplied
Once the builder pulled up the floor he found the water had spread up the wall. Photo / Supplied

Ansell raised the issue during a property inspection in February and when there was no action she phoned Housing NZ customer service.

She phoned customer service again in March - and again, and again. Each time she said she received the same reply - there were no funds, no builders, and that her situation was not a priority, but it was on file.

"They would just say, 'Sorry, there is nothing we can do'."

By the end of March, Ansell reached breaking point. Mould had spread all through her cupboards under the sink and various appliances were ruined.

Water had spread across most of the kitchen floor. Photo / Supplied
Water had spread across most of the kitchen floor. Photo / Supplied

The soggy patch in front of the sink had spread to about a half-metre wide circle and each time she did the dishes she feared she could fall through.

"I had a hip replacement, and each time I went into the kitchen it was so difficult, it was all uneven. I hated my kitchen."

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After another rebuttal from Housing NZ, Ansell went to see her daughter.

"I just broke down. It takes a lot of energy."

Marsh asked her mother to phone Housing NZ again, this time on loudspeaker.

What Marsh heard shocked her.

"I was horrified. The operator was not even listening to Mum. They were just talking all over her, like they were reading from a script."

With her mother again in tears, Marsh intervened and asked to speak to a supervisor.

Marsh said she explained the leak was a health and safety issue, that her mother could not even do her dishes and that the mould was dangerous.

"The supervisor apologised, said the call centre behaviour was not acceptable and that an inspector would be sent shortly."

An inspector came on April 9 and told Ansell the floor and cabinets would need replacing.

"The inspector came into the kitchen and did not even walk on the floor. He was horrified," Ansell said.

The next month the builder arrived to start work.

"He pushed on the floor by the sink and his foot went through it."

As he pulled back the floor he found the water had gone from the sink right across the kitchen floor to the lounge. It had also gone up the kitchen wall.

A plumber fixed the leak, but told Ansell water could be coming from elsewhere.

The builder told Ansell she should not be staying there during the repairs because of the mould.

The damp floor of Maureen Ansell's Housing New Zealand home in Inglewood. Photo / Supplied
The damp floor of Maureen Ansell's Housing New Zealand home in Inglewood. Photo / Supplied

Ansell said she again phoned Housing NZ, who told her the repairs would only take a day so she had to stay there.

"They just weren't listening."

Eventually her daughter managed to have Housing NZ provide a motel in New Plymouth for Maureen.

Marsh said normally she could have stayed with her and her family, but they had a "very full house" and she felt it was Housing NZ's responsibility to look after their tenant.

"I am disgusted with how Mum has been treated. Senior citizens are losing their voice. Mum wouldn't be in any accommodation if I didn't intervene."

Ansell said she wanted to share her story to highlight the challenges elderly faced.

"I am not one to complain. When you are old and retired you don't want to rock the boat in case you are kicked out.

"Without my daughter I don't know what would have happened, I just feel for those out there who don't have anybody to fight for them."

Maureen Ansell had to fight for repairs to her rotting Housing New Zealand home in Inglewood. Photo / Ilona Hanne
Maureen Ansell had to fight for repairs to her rotting Housing New Zealand home in Inglewood. Photo / Ilona Hanne

Housing New Zealand area manager said Raewyn Vooght said they were upset to hear of the problems Ansell had experienced.

"We have said we are very sorry to our tenant and her family and moved quickly to get things repaired and our tenant accommodated safely while work is carried out," she said.

"We are looking into this situation thoroughly to understand what went wrong when. This will take several days as a number of people are involved."

National's associate social housing spokesperson Simon O'Connor said he was "deeply sympathetic" to Ansell, and hoped the situation could be remedied "ASAP".

"While the Government is focused on new houses they also need to remain responsible to those already tenants.

"Kiwis in Housing NZ homes deserve safe living conditions.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford's office referred a request for comment to Housing NZ.

Auckland Action Against Poverty coordinator Ricardo Menendez said Ansell's situation highlighted the "bureaucratic barriers" faced by Housing New Zealand tenants.

"Housing NZ needs to be far more proactive in reaching out to elderly tenants to check if there are any concerns, rather than placing the onus on them."

He said it reinforced the irony of the Government's healthy home standards announced this week, which required private rentals to comply by July 2021 but gave Housing NZ properties and community housing providers until July 2023.