Concern as room renters multiply

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014

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Christchurch's fast-growing rental market in room-by-room tenancies is sparking fears that the safety of tenants and neighbourhoods is being put at risk.

With demand for accommodation high, many landlords are renting bedrooms as individual tenancies, mostly to rebuild workers and students.

Under the law, a house can have up to five such tenants before having to meet the extra requirements for a boarding house.

Tenants Protection manager Helen Gatonyi said the number of such properties in the city was "mind blowing".

Strangers renting in the same house raised serious safety issues, she said. "You have male and female, different cultures and races, and no say over who's in the next bedroom or coming into the bathroom, or visits.

"It's a real growth industry and it opens a whole can of worms."

Gatonyi believed many such properties were being run as boarding houses and landlords were getting around the law.

Local and offshore owners were buying houses expressly to rent room-by-room and some were unaware of the relevant laws, Gatonyi said. Many of the houses were in family neighbourhoods, which could lead to conflict.

The lack of a register or rental properties meant no-one knew the size of the issue, she said.

Avonside resident Sam Hannifin said a household of young "tradies"on individual tenancies in his street until recently had nightly noisy parties, with visitors and cars coming and going all hours.

Despite visits from the police, noise control officers and the property manager, neighbours were continually harassed, he said.

"There was never a quiet night. The problem is the lack of control in these room-by-room places - they are strangers and there's no-one in charge."

Church Corner resident Audrey Smith said three new buildings were going up next door to her home. Each would have six tenants.

"I've been here 47 years, its a quiet residential street and this has just ruined it. There will be 18 people all packed onto one site, and sharing my driveway."

Landlords in the city are making good returns renting by the room, with tenants sharing living areas and often bathrooms.

Tenancies being advertised this week include $180 for one of six bedrooms in a Linwood house, and $240 to $280 for one of four rooms in a purpose-built house in Riccarton. All are furnished with power provided, and some include a phone, internet and pay TV.

Property manager Tony Brazier warned that landlords needed to take care selecting tenants, and must "be on the case more" with multiple tenancies.

"They can work well if managed properly."

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Many rebuild workers from out of town were in Christchurch for "a good time, not a long time" and behaviour without collective flatmate responsibility could cause headaches for everybody, he said.

- The Press

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