To kick off Rent Week, The Spinoff writers and friends share some of the worst renting conditions they’ve had to live with. Please feel free to share your own on our Facebook page, or send to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to this anthology of atrocious landlords and homes across in New Zealand.
Just the other day, in what felt like some biblical act of karmic retribution, we awoke to find the carpets writhing with maggots. Huge, grotesque, violent looking maggots – the sort that don’t just want to turn into flies, but to party a little and smash some shit in the process. I’m sure a microscope would have revealed tiny maggot-size spray cans, maggoty bandanas and probably little cigarettes too. These were bad dudes. After a Rug Doctor and enough fly spray to kill a large dog, they were gone, but they remain forever in our minds.
What hasn’t been as easy to deal with is the fact that my canvas bedroom curtain is a Jackson Pollock of mould, with red through orange through green, and I can shake the entire house with a single finger. The bath also leaks, and as with my colleague Skye below, the floor is starting to sag and cave ominously. The difference is, there are people living below us. RIP to them I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
My first house was a single room in St Kevin’s Arcade made into a three bedroom flat with the sides of huge wooden cheese board that met neither the floor or the ceiling. The ‘shower’ was a standalone back with a showerhead you had to hold up yourself. The toilet was shared between all the renters on the mezzanine (a sex shop and two other flats) and we lost the boys’ key, so I had to use the girls or go downstairs to Calibre (now Whammy bar) and line up in my PJs next to E’d up partiers.
Last time we looked for a rental, we lined up with 50 other couples to look at a cold, damp house in Pt Chev with the beginnings of black mould on the walls. My wife asked whether the landlords would do anything about the mould. “Not for this price we’re not.” We got back into the car, saw a place on TradeMe, drove to Mission Bay and were one of two couples looking at a sweet place ACROSS THE ROAD FROM THE BEACH with MILLION DOLLAR HARBOUR VIEWS for $50 more a week than the mouldy place in the cool area. Moral of the story: Go east. The West is over.
When I was living in the non-leafy suburb of Eden Terrace, our toilet – which was roughly the size of a portaloo – had a cheap plywood floor. I guess it had absorbed a lot of moisture over the years, completely caving in one day after experiencing high foot traffic at a house party.
The landlord took three weeks to give us a new floor. For three weeks we sat on the toilet with our feet resting on the back of the door or swinging languidly inside a giant hole. On the plus side, the hole allowed us to discover our neighbour’s rotting cat which had died under the house – her body may never have been found otherwise.
I fell in twice :(
My last house was so damp that I had to throw out a great deal of my clothes due to their mould marks. They might have been fashionable in another life, not unlike a Hosking tie-dye jean, if it hadn’t been for the putrid smell. Many sunny weekends were spent covering our mouths and eyes and wiping the blackened ceilings and walls, all the while reflecting on how lucky we were to live in the central suburbs for such an affordable price. The two years that I lived there were the sickest years of my life (in the literal way, not the cool way), and there was a constant battle with slugs, leaks and the stench of death. Here’s me, face to face with a kitchen slug:
After so many years of neglect prior to us living there, the house had become so rotten that one day a giant chunk of our french doors just shattered like a Ryvita cracker when I touched it. Our landlord didn’t want to pay to get it fixed immediately, instead waiting on some of his elderly builder mates to find some free time to do it. On their first visit, they managed to board up the gaping hole in our wall to the outside, meaning that for the many coming weeks we suffered in a cold, dark room with no natural light like a sensory deprivation experience without the nice herbal tea or soothing soundtrack.
About two months later the new doors were finished. Pity we still couldn’t shut them properly.
I lived in a flat once where the landlord asked if he could leave his homemade portaloo in the front yard for a couple of days. It was still there three months later.
My flat was literally colder inside than out in the middle of winter and the sun reached the first twenty centimetres of the front part of the room and the rest was essentially dark all day long. The floor was perpetually damp and if you dropped, say, a towel on the floor, it would immediately become damp itself. There was one period where it was so damp that an open package of pasta absorbed enough moisture to actually semi-cook it.
Our landlord lived next door and we shared a laundry with him. One time we were having a casual and very mild barbecue and he came over and started yelling at us for, honestly, I don’t even know what, but essentially for being disorderly and having people parked in the literal carpark, and he shoved one of our guests. I took the lead and was super pleasant and said “yes I hear you” at him and he told me not to play nice and that he saw right through me.
We took him to court for being an asshole so we could get out of our lease. The day we moved was the rainiest possible day and everything went wrong, including us getting our one car and its trailer stuck in the driveway opposite our new house for forty five minutes while I cried in the rain that we were going to go over our 4pm deadline of getting the hell out of the previous house.
Once I lived in a house with a long steep driveway and I was driving down it one day and I accidentally hit the sewerage pipe that was on the side of the house. Every time someone used the toilet it would literally just flow out onto our driveway. Our landlord didn’t see this as urgent so we did a home plumbing job which did not work and I think they finally got it fixed a week and half later. I know it was my fault… but that was next level urgent.
I lived in a place (my room was a converted bathroom or wardrobe, I think) in Hamilton that was rotting and had holes in the floor, ceiling and walls from water damage or from where rats and mice had gnawed their way in. We nailed flattened tins over them to keep the rodents out but creatures kept finding their way in.
Then there was the place where we got broken into and the landlord didn’t bother to fix the wrecked front door for weeks. After a really clumsy patch-up job, they tried to put the rent up on us.
I’ve been lucky to live in the kind of flats where the worst problems are the nightmarish state of the fridge and that one unremarkable flatmate you grow to unreasonably hate. My sister has not been as fortunate. She once lived next to a park in Auckland out of which a trail of giant “bush rats” would process inside, attracted by the kitchen leftovers left out to fester. One flatmate was told that rats loved to feast on human cartilage and became convinced that the household rats, tired of the kitchen-bench offerings, would come for her nose as she lay. Her solution: sleeping each night with a colander over her face.
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