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Christchurch tenant says her health 'deteriorated' because of mouldy, dusty rental

A Christchurch tenant says her mental and physical health has “deteriorated” due to the subpar rental she’s living in, but her complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

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Fair Go has guidance for renters who are staying in properties that technically meet the healthy home standards, but the reality is different. Source: Fair Go

Kate Morgan, 23, moved from California to Ōtautahi to make the most of Aotearoa’s great outdoors.

She told Fair Go the house she rented in Ōpawa drew her in with its “character”. Over time, even character couldn’t cover the cracks, mould and holes.

“To let people live in this state of house is just a bit too far over the edge of not okay,” Morgan said.

“Mentally my health has deteriorated… I have asthma as well so definitely makes a big impact living around mould and dust.”

Morgan wanted the home fixed but this hasn’t happened, and she blames her property manager – David Kibblewhite from SLPM Christchurch.

Kibblewhite told Fair Go he’s both landlord and property manager, working for the deceased estate that owns the Ōpawa house.

“We’ve spent in excess of $1500 to try and find out where the mould, where the health issues are occurring,” he said.

“We’ve had nothing from the tenants apart from the allegations, we’ve had no medical evidence from doctors, no nothing.”

When asked if he would live there, Kibblewhite said “absolutely”.

Kibblewhite also said he’s waiting on an environmental report following an inspection of the property, testing things like air quality, mould and moisture.

It was done over a month ago, and the tenants haven’t been told the results yet.

So, Fair Go got its own testing done.

“We have a reading here of 528,” said Graeme from Maynard Marks, while moisture testing a wall in the lounge.

This test is only a guide, but he said a normal reading is “somewhere under 100”.

“If you have a wet environment, musty smells or mould inside your home, that’s a sign of moisture… I’ve seen photos of this house, there are a lot of holes in this house.

“It’s pretty obvious there is some water coming in from the exterior.”

This house in question is an ‘as is, where is’ property. These homes are common in earthquake-damaged places like Ōtautahi (Christchurch) and Kaikoura.

The phrase is a red flag for buyers that what you see is what you get. But if you choose to buy, then rent out the property – from July you’ll still need to comply with the Healthy Homes Standards no matter what condition you bought the house.

Well-known property manager Pru Morrall told Fair Go tenants need to be cautious when renting ‘as is, where is’ homes, advising them to check the walls and bricks instead of the charm.

“Use your nose. Often you can smell mould, they may have tried tricks like fresh paint to try and hide it,” Morrall said.

“Look at drains outside, it may seem like an overkill, but with an as is where is house, sometimes storm-water and sewer lines are completely gone.”

But Morrall’s found some owners do the bare minimum to make an ‘as is where is’ space liveable, and that being a property manager for these homes is a matter of morals.

“Given the photos I’ve seen, I would not be renting that property out.

“This is very unfair. It’s no way for anyone to live. No one should be living like this in this country.”

Morgan had also been calling Tenancy Services repeatedly for help since January, but struggled to get through.

MBIE, which manages Tenancy Services, told Fair Go it’s been a busy time of year.

“Tenancy Services receives thousands of calls a week. We are aware there’s recently been instances of members of the public being unable to reach us when calling our Service Centre. We apologise for the inconvenience and we are working on improving our service.”

Morgan has now moved into a warmer, dryer home, and has taken her case to the Tenancy Tribunal.

To avoid the same issues, here are some renting tips:

- Go through the house with the property manager and take lots of photos before you rent it

- Check the Healthy Homes Standards

- Ask lots of questions

- If you’re renting an ‘As Is, Where Is’ house it’s not insured, so you need to be

- If the property manager or landlord isn’t addressing issues or concerns you’ve raised, you can send a 14-day notice to remedy

- If none of the above work, get in touch with Tenancy Services