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‘The garden was a literal shit swamp’: Your renting horror stories, vol. 1

Yesterday we asked for your stories, good and bad, about the experience of renting a home in New Zealand, and the response was huge. This is first installment, with more to come throughout Rent Week.

I lived in a very cute little row of houses, tucked behind the car yards on Great North Road, Grey Lynn way. Very cute but very neglected. When we viewed the house the bathroom ceiling was 100% black with mould. The agent told us it would be sorted before move in date – it wasn’t.

There were a lot of issues with damp and mould, but the biggest problem was that every time it rained, raw sewage from the whole block would flood into our back yard. All through the winter months, the garden was a literal shit swamp. Toilet paper, whole turds – an absolute hazard.

Every time the flooding happened I would contact the agents and a plumber would come in, but after a few visits, and chatting with the plumber I found that the agents hadn’t contacted them at all, but the neighbour next to us whose own garden was next in line to flood.

After months of pestering to have the drainage fixed, I heard through the grapevine that the whole block was set to be demolished within the next few months. It suddenly made sense that the landlord had absolutely no intention to make the houses liveable.

I fought to end my lease early and get out of the shit-swamp house, never got my bond back though. / Rachel Billington

I once rented an old villa in Epsom with my partner and friends. The place was beautiful – stained glass windows and high ceilings – but I’m quite sure it wasn’t insulated as it was colder inside then out. There were holes in the wooden floorboards, window seals etc etc. We complained to our landlord about a few things – minor things like the sewerage system blocking and spurting a fountain of shit out of the shower drain covering my flatmate and giving him Campylobacter, a massive wasp hive in the backyard that was causing wasps to swarm into the house, and doorknobs breaking and locking people in their rooms.

The landlord made us pay for the plumber for the spurting shit fountain and the five foot tall wasp nest, saying that we caused them. In total this cost around $800 which is a lot for a bunch of povo students.

I disputed it with the prop manager from AJ Stevenson saying neither was remotely our fault, and she said we could go to the tenancy tribunal if we really wanted to put up a fight. My flatmates weren’t keen – it was too much hassle, and they assumed we’d be kicked out as soon as the hearing was over.

We were on a rolling lease but the owner obviously wanted rid of us so he said he was moving back from China to live in the place. We were hurried out with two weeks left on the lease to live on friends couches and back at parents’ places. Less than a week later we saw the place back on TradeMe for rent at a higher price. HAH.

What really shocked me was how complicit AJ Stevenson was in the whole thing – they didn’t flinch when charging us for stuff wrongly, or kicking us out illegally.

At another house I had a property manager who we never met wouldn’t reply to anybody’s calls so we just made repairs ourselves and left him out. I now live with my girlfriend’s parents and am moving to South Asia where rent is so cheap it doesn’t matter. / Ben Tutty

 

My husband and I have been married for one year this weekend, and we have a 6-month-old son.

We currently rent in Glen Eden, Auckland, and we pay $480 a week in rent. That’s $24,960 each year.

The dream of owning a house in the city where we were both born, raised, and have frankly have never left is never going to be fulfilled because we will never be able to save/afford to buy our own house in this city

We are middle-class earners (so earn too much for government subsidies), we work five days a week each. Our baby is in daycare already – to give him a good life (which was suppose to include his own home left to him once we die) we have to work every day.

We’ve never had problems with finding or maintaining rentals (though that could change with our son now around); this is our 4th house together. But we cover our tattoos, we’re white (white Māori) and we both work. Every time we have gone to a viewing and people of other ethnicities are applying… we always win. / Anya Tamihana-Simich

 

I once ran away from an open home. It was the only valid reaction I had to what I was seeing. Cracked windows, broken weatherboard, damaged tiles… It wasn’t quite everything the online listing had led me to believe.

The real estate agent said it was “cosy”.

I said it was “revolting”.

$750 for four bedrooms, with a 45-minute bus commute time? No thank you.

And then I and my three accomplices ran.

I’m a third year university student who moved up to the big smoke from Wellington with lofty aspirations and vast dreams. If only I had known more about flatting before moving.

The concept of renting is something which the average high school graduate knows very little about. How does one acquire a house? Is it best to go through a real estate agent? How safe is TradeMe? Why didn’t I learn how to cook?

These questions, and many more, were flying through my mind about halfway into the first year of study. I was cosied up in my shoebox of a room at an already hugely overpriced Hall of Residence and then it hit me – what am I going to do next year?

Other than a generally pointless one hour flatting seminar in the latter half of the year, everything my flat mates and I did to find a house – including visiting the aforementioned slum and one really weird time when my Uber driver attended an open home with me(!?) – was entirely of our own accord.

The real issue – and the one that worried me most as an ‘immigrant Aucklander’ – is how on earth are we expected to survive in a city like Auckland?

Let’s break this down. The living cost allowance that comes with our student loan is vastly out of touch. We get $176.86 a week. In Auckland, you’d be lucky to find a room in a rental for under $200 if you don’t want to commute for a lifetime each day.

For those of us who commute – and to have any chance of finding ‘cheap’ housing you HAVE to commute – add on at least $25 a week for public transport. Oh, and of course your monthly bills – internet, power, water – plus it’s nice to eat food, so add on a bit more. Basically, $176.86 as a ‘living’ cost doesn’t cut it, StudyLink.

While many students are fortunate to have extra familial support, or are happy to work, numerous students struggle to find a job, and getting any help from the family is simply impossible.

Isn’t the point of a student loan to get every New Zealander through university?

I can’t see how it is seen as fair that because the housing market in Auckland is fucked, all students should be expected to work or bludge off their parents for the extent of their undergraduate education if they hope to survive.

Sure, $176.86 is entirely sufficient for students living in Otago or Canterbury, but why not take into consideration those of us who have chosen to ‘try’ to live in Wellington or Auckland? / Stewart Sowman-Lund

 

I lived in one of those really handsome old skinny houses in Newmarket that had originally been gold mining cottages in Thames in the 1880s. My house was built from big thick kauri planks, with gaps between them so you could see through to the outside. The wind would blow through to the point where if you sat on a certain spot on the couch your hair would blow around. There was scrim and scarping on the hallway and bedroom walls, basically hessian sacking they use to glue to the boards and wallpaper over, and it had come unglued from the wood so that the wallpaper in the house billowed and moved when it was windy. Also in the wind the whole house shook and shuddered and swayed more than any house in most of the earthquakes I’ve been in. Charming as it was, I think it’s pretty unusual and unfair to charge people to live in a house for shelter in which the WIND is a problem. / Amanda Kennedy

 

I‘m one of the lucky ones. My landlord is pretty much one of the best people on earth.

I’ve been renting a room from him for nearly five years. He renovated the place himself and is incredibly houseproud. He’s kept the rent low because his philosophy is that good tenants are like gold and you should hang onto them.

He’s become a really good friend as well. He was one of the guests at my citizenship ceremony and he’ll definitely be at my wedding too.

I’m also a landlord myself. I was lucky to inherit some money back in the 90s and used some of it to buy a small flat overseas. When I moved to New Zealand and started working full time in 2014 (I was on a scholarship before then) I sold it and bought a house in the Waikato. It didn’t have a heat pump and hardly any insulation, so I sorted that as quickly as I could (it did take a bit too long for my liking because the management company was dragging their feet, but in the end I was able to get a few subsidies for the insulation).

I have had two sets of tenants. The current tenants have signed on for another year. I won’t raise the rent unless I have to. I fix everything immediately as soon as the management company reports it to me.

I just don’t understand how people can be such assholes to their tenants. I reckon most of them are so deeply in debt, or just greedy dickheads, that they jack up the rent either because they have no contingency for expenses or just cause they can. My renters cover the mortgage, insurance, rates and some contingency for repairs, because I was smart and didn’t borrow more than I could afford to. I won’t raise the rent unless I have to, but I also locked in a low rate for two years so I probably won’t have to for the near future. If it gets to the point that it’s way below market rate maybe I’ll raise it a little.

I might retire in that house one day so I want my tenants to take care of it. I am also just a decent person who thinks having a nice warm comfortable place to live shouldn’t be a pipe dream like it is for so many people in this incredibly wealthy country. The government just needs to sort this shit out. It’s ludicrous. / Michelle Williams

This post is part of Rent Week, our week-long series about why the experience of renting a home in NZ is so terrible, and whether anything can be done to fix it. Read the entire series here.


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