Are Auckland's most vulnerable being taken advantage of by landlords?

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An Auckland property owner who is renting out rooms to some of the city's most disadvantaged, including sickness beneficiaries and mental health patients says he's helping solve Auckland's housing crisis.

Some landlords say they are trying to help Auckland's most needy – but at what cost?
Source: 1 NEWS

Tony Xu owns five boarding houses, but three are so substandard the council has forced him to shut them down.

The Salvation Army's Alan Johnson says the conditions in the homes are deplorable.

"Anyone who went into those places would think it’s a pretty miserable place to live."

Around the back of one particular flat, a makeshift toilet is built on top of a deck covered only by a basic garden shed.

The bathroom is opposite a so-called bedroom that's just two by two metres, the size of which is illegal.

Thomas, one of eight beneficiary residents living in the eight bedroom house, squeezed in a three bedroom footprint, pays $290 a week.

He says he's got nowhere else to go.

"I feel ashamed you know, I'm 58 and I've worked twenty years of my life and I'm on the bones of my arse."

Just a few blocks away there are houses for rent where the rooms on average work out at least a hundred dollars a week less.

So, why can't Thomas and his fellow tenants just move there?

No investors or letting agents will say this in public but they've told 1 News, few property owners would rent out their places to these vulnerable people because they're too high risk.

Tony Xu didn't want to talk to us except for a phone call, saying his prices are determined by the market.

Although his properties might be illegal but his rental prices are not.

Alan Johnson believes there are thousands of people probably being exploited by landlords like Tony Xu.

He wants to see more social housing, better tenant protection and more oversight from the Ministry of Social Development.

"All they're doing is simply giving the landlord money to house that person without any regard for what sort of housing he's providing."

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