An Oamaru couple are dealing with the effects of emotional and financial stress, and giving up on their dream home and lifestyle, following a nightmare rental experience in Cust.
Diana and Wayne Puru had spent three years looking for the right lifestyle block and finally found it - complete with a pristine seven-year-old house - on Terrace Rd in the village. They put their home in Oamaru on the market and decided to lease out the North Canterbury property in the interim.
''The place was just perfect for us; away from cars and people, and ideal for our dogs and our show Persian and exotic cats,'' Diana said.
''It was close enough for us to travel to Christchurch or Rangiora for work, and it had the most wonderful three-bedroom brick home, with a three-bay shed and a double garage that was lined, just right for our cats.''
With the dearth of rental properties in the area, their first rental advertisement drew a flood of replies, but one family stood out. They were struggling to recover from the earthquakes, had three small children and needed something short term.
''I took colouring books and toys up for the children the first day we met them in person at the farmlet. We didn't ask for any bond, just rent each week for the next three months,'' Diana said.
''Well, that didn't happen.
''Every week I was chasing him for money and then we got a phone call to tell us the grass was up to the windows all over the farmlet and it was a fire hazard. We drove up the following week. He had moved in, closed all the curtains and never went outside other than to take the children to school.''
That family left. The following week, another advertisement drew more than 30 replies.
''We picked out a respondent who had sent us glowing references. We travelled up again to clean the house, plant more native grasses and trees and fill the pond with my grandmother's water lillies.
''They've all been destroyed now.''
Diana admits that, even after the first disaster, they were naive and never thought of doing a search on the Tenancy Tribunal website, where the tenant's name draws a number of outstanding debt responses.
''I've since discovered that the money she owes to other people is huge, but butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
''Each week, when I'd ring asking where the rent was, she had a different excuse. She hadn't double-clicked the button or it had gone into the wrong account.''
She has also subsequently met the woman who penned the tenant's reference, and discovered she specifically asked for the document not to be used, having discovered the state in which the tenant had left her last property.
The pair have now given up and have just accepted an offer on the property from a young couple also looking to move to Cust.
''The damage she has done to our property means it has been left unrentable, and the rent she owes us has been the final blow. We just can't go through it all again, so we are selling our dream - we are just getting too old to be fighting mean, selfish people,'' Diana said.
They are going through the process of trying to regain the outstanding rent, but don't hold out much hope, given that the tenant already owes more than $5000 to a past landlord, according to just one tribunal hearing.
''The sad thing is that you don't just lose the money and the property - you lose your faith in people. Our dream died because we were kind and caring.'
- © Fairfax NZ News