Minister calls for crackdown on wreckers of state houses

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2014
Housing NZ flats
Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ
RUN DOWN: A vacant Housing New Zealand home that has been damaged as it has sat empty over the past few years.

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The Government is to chase up state house tenants to pay for the damage they do to their homes.

The planned crackdown comes as Housing New Zealand records show state home tenants and their visitors in Wellington have been asked for more than $2 million to cover damage after a period of assessment towards the end of last year.

Nationwide, four state-owned homes had to be demolished in 2012-13 after chemical damage caused by drug labs rendered them too dangerous to live in.

About a tenth of Housing New Zealand's 200,000 tenants still have damage debt owing, according to figures released by Housing NZ under the Official Information Act.

In 2012, the cost of fixing damaged state houses was about $15m - which was double the amount from five years earlier.

By October last year, Housing NZ already had 7000 tenant-damaged properties on its books, for which it had to spend $16.2m in three months.

The majority of the damage repair bill was for fair wear and tear, natural disaster and fire repairs.

However, Housing Minister Nick Smith said he wanted a crackdown on people who wilfully wrecked homes.

"I have been concerned about the high level of property damage by a minority of tenants to Housing New Zealand properties. I had some particularly ugly examples and I ask the corporation to take a firmer approach," he said.

A suspension policy for troublesome tenants meant people could be barred from living in a state home for up to a year.

In Wellington, tenants owed a total $40,421 at October 2013 for damage to state homes they wrecked and deserted.

Tenants' visitors were also being asked to pay up for almost $40,000 of damage they caused to the capital's state houses.

A further $76,441 could not be pinned on anyone because it could not be proved who caused the damage.

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- The Dominion Post

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