Family lock gates after being told to leave

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 07/09/2012
Paul Harnett and Ashley, Sarah and Mandy Hopkins
MURRAY WILSON/Fairfax NZ

BARRICADED: Paul Harnett and Ashley, Sarah and Mandy Hopkins have padlocked their gate in an effort to fight eviction from their Palmerston North home.

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A Palmerston North family who say they have been unfairly threatened with eviction have locked their gates and are refusing to budge from the home they have lived in for five years.

The Hopkins family say they were not given enough notice and are refusing to go anywhere. They were ordered to be off the property by lunchtime yesterday after the family missed several rent payments.

Instead, Mandy Hopkins, her partner Paul Harnett, son Ashley, and daughter Sarah clamped a bicycle lock on the gate, effectively barricading themselves in.

Ms Hopkins said the dispute had unfolded after 15-year-old Sarah gave birth prematurely last month.

While taking time off to tend to the unexpected arrival of her new granddaughter, Ms Hopkins lost her supermarket job and subsequently missed several rent payments.

"I'm having a hell of a time," Ms Hopkins said. "We just want to stay where we are, because we've been here all these years . . . I think it's unfair, we have been here for five years and we have missed out on the rent only a couple of times. [Sarah] is only 15 years old. She had the baby early, and we had to be there for her."

Ms Hopkins said she had shown proof to property managers of an annual inheritance payment of $20,000 she was to receive this month, and had offered to pay arrears as well as three months' advance rent.

Watsons Property manager Greg Watson said his staff were still involved in negotiations with the family. He was unable to comment on the reasons for the eviction or whether they would accept Ms Hopkins' offer, but said the owner of the house had obtained a court order and was legally entitled to ask the family to leave.

"The owner is quite entitled to end their tenancy if they choose to do so. They have a court ruling on that case," Mr Watson said.

Watsons had inherited management of that property and it was not a "sudden" decision, he said. The family had been aware of their impending eviction for reasons he could not disclose because the matter is before the courts.

"The writing has been on the wall for a considerable length of time. "They have known for a very long time what the situation is."

Manawatu Tenants Union co-ordinator Kevin Reilly said from what he understood of the case there was nowhere else for the Hopkins family to go and he had been in talks with Housing NZ to help them find somewhere else to live.

Mr Reilly said he did not dispute the owner's legal entitlement to evict them, but said the way it had been handled was "unacceptable".

"It's sad it had to come to this. It's sad to put a 1-month-old child out on the street. They need to have a bit more compassion and tolerance, and wait until they can find another house."

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- Manawatu Standard

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