Property ladder: Adventures in renting

Last updated 13:02 02/04/2013

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The great Kiwi property ladder

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With all this talk of whether renting is better than owning, or vice versa, I have my own reasons for wanting to own - landlords.

I have been renting since 1982. My first landlord was my father, who gave me a nice place to live at a very generous rental price while I was at university. He is first equal with my current landlady as the best landlord I have ever had. But there have been some not-too-savoury adventures along the way, with landlords who were not all they seemed. 

These ones stick in my mind:

- The landlord at the block of flats on the corner of two busy Auckland roads who claimed that the traffic died down at night, and that the tenants above were really quiet (ha!), who also claimed that because we had put two picture hooks in the wall before moving out one month later that $300 should come out of our bond.

- The old chap in Karori, Wellington who was reluctant to pay for a tanker truck when we were on tank water and ran out in a particularly dry summer. For three days we were without fresh water, as his solution was to hire a pump and pump water to our cottage from the Karori stream. On the fourth day, he relented when we threatened to call the council.

- The agent of another house in Wellington who said that the fact that there was no TV reception was not part of his responsibility, unless I paid to prove that the antenna wasn't working. This house came with a dehumidifier, which should have made me think again. The owners of this same property claimed the people upstairs (five male students) were quiet as mice, even though one of them tried to assault me the second time I went up to complain during one of their drunken parties.

- Then there was the landlady in Wilton who had a shed full of rubbish that she claimed was mine when I moved out. I was moving out because she had let the flat underneath us to a Goth who played death metal at all hours, and had decorated his flat with the skulls of dead animals and upside down crosses. When he was broken into by other Goths I called the police. After seeing his place, one of them said "it couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke". Fortunately his sound system was stolen!

- Finally, there was the landlord of a two bedroom place in Kelburn, who owns a number of properties around town. Three times in two years the sewage backed up into the toilet and shower because each time he asked the poor plumber to do the bare minimum. While there, I cleaned all his rubbish out of a third room below the house, and paid and laboured, with some faithful friends, to make it into a clean and cozy third bedroom. Three months later he gave me notice to move out and has been renting the place as a three-bedroom ever since - with the accompanying rent increase.

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Whether landlords know their obligations or not, they are in business to make money, and it pays to be as hard-nosed and clued up as they are. It's your home, after all.

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