TODAY |

How small is too small? 'Cosy' Wellington flat may not legally be a bedroom

Lisa's bedroom in her Wellington flat is small and cosy, sundrenched during the daytime. It's just large enough to fit her double bed, pressed against the wall. But it might not fit legal requirements for a "bedroom".

The 'bedroom' in a Wellington flat. Source: 1 NEWS

Lisa's name has been changed in this article due to fears of retribution from future landlords. She says she didn't realise how unusual her room was until she posted online trying to find someone to take over the lease when she moves out.

She pays $170 a week for the converted sunroom, in a flat with seven other people in Wellington.

When she posted an ad for $130, she faced ridicule and criticism. It was compared to the cupboard under the stairs in Harry Potter and others followed with mocking images of other tiny spaces.

"[I was] a bit shocked! I knew it wasn’t the fanciest room but people really thought it was bad," she told 1 NEWS.

Under the Housing Improvement Regulations, a bedroom needs to have an area of at least six square metres and a minimum width of 1.8 metres. 

That's just the minimum requirement for one person. If two people are staying in the room, it needs to be at least 10 square metres.

It's not clear whether Lisa's room fits the bill.

Tenancy Services' Steve Watson says if tenants are worried their housing doesn't meet requirements, they should talk to their landlord.

"If a resolution or outcome cannot be reached, Tenancy Services provides information regarding a number of options available to resolve a dispute, which include FastTrack Resolution, mediation or Tenancy Tribunal hearings," he says.

However, Lisa isn't sure if that's an option for her.

"I think it’s obviously wrongdoing on [the landlord's] behalf and I think things like this are a pretty common occurrence in a place like Wellington," she says.

"But personally I don’t know if I want to get bogged down with the processes and the fight that I think would come with it."

There are concerns as the housing crisis continues to bite, more tenants will be forced into ill-suited properties with few alternatives.

"This shows how the dire lack of rentals available and out-of-control rental prices are making tenants desperate," says Anna Mooney from advocacy group Renters United.

"Renters are having to take what they can get for what they can afford. The alternative is having nowhere to live. 

"If tenants had a choice they would not be choosing to rent out these places being generously designated as 'bedrooms'."

If you're looking at a property and don't think it meets the minimum standards, you can contact the Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team with your concerns, Watson says.

Meanwhile, Mooney says in the current market, tenants are unlikely to complain.

"Also, many renters won't be familiar with what the minimum legal requirements for a rental are. This is why we need minimum standards that rentals must comply with before they can be tenanted."

Lisa was one of those renters.

"I always thought it was small but I was pretty desperate for a room and reasonably cheap rent," she says.

At the moment, the median weekly rent in New Zealand is $450. The median weekly salary is $1060.