Tenants homeless after 'mouldy' house dispute
They're sick, they're tired, they're jobless and now they're homeless.
It's a tough situation to be in, but Candice, 22, and Katelyn Hart, 21, are just glad their rental nightmare is finally coming to an end.
The Hamilton sisters have been fighting their landlord over their rental home, which they share with three of their friends, for the last six months.
They say their mould-ridden rental is leaky and the city council agrees, issuing an Insanitary Building Notice on it "due to evidence of moisture in the building or having been in the building".
But their landlord, Michele Coker, says the mould is the tenants' fault because they aren't cleaning or ventilating the house.
In a tenancy tribunal hearing on September 16, it was decided that the sisters must leave the property by 4pm September 23, leaving them with just one week to find somewhere to go.
The nightmare began in March, when Candice and Katelyn signed up to a 12-month tenancy to rent Ms Coker's Lake Rd property.
Three weeks later, they say the house was riddled with mould and there was water dripping from the ceiling. Both women said they had lost their jobs due to the house as the mould and dampness had made them ill and they had failed to turn up to work one too many times.
"I'm sick. It just doesn't go away. I've been in hospital, everything ... I've got asthma inhalers now, which I've never had before," Candice said.
Five months after their tenancy began, Candice said little had been done to fix the moisture and maintenance problems so on July 15 they ceased paying rent and lodged a claim to the tenancy tribunal. The rent arrears now stand at $4545.
Katelyn said she tried to contact her landlord several times but Ms Coker rarely replied. In total she counted 30 unanswered calls, six voice messages and at least 10 emails.
"You can only try and contact your landlord so much before you give up," she said.
In their claim they said they wanted compensation for Ms Coker's failure to maintain the property - which led to excessive mould.
The sisters backed up their claims with a report from roof maintenance experts, Edwards and Hardy who recommended that the roof be replaced.
Ms Coker disputed that report telling the tribunal that the company provided an "inflated quote" as they had a "vested interest in finding fault with the roof".
Edwards and Hardy Hamilton general manager Tony Thorn said they only quoted a reroof because the problem could not be fixed by patching it up.
"The reason we wouldn't patch it up is because it would just leak elsewhere and that would come back and bite us," he said.
On August 6, the Hamilton City Council issued an Insanitary Building Notice to Ms Coker.
"After receiving a complaint about the condition of the building at 128 Lake Road, our building control team carried out an inspection. It was determined that it was insanitary due to evidence of moisture in the building or having been in the building," said Hamilton City Council building control manager Phil Saunders.
But Ms Coker also disputed that notice saying it was based on the tenants side of the story.
"If a house is deemed insanitary because it has a suspected roof leak, I think half of New Zealand's housing would be issued with such a notice," she said.
Ms Coker offered a report to the tribunal from Bryce Gillard of Generalz Contracting which said the mould was caused by the tenants and that when he inspected the ceiling space it was fully insulated by Pink Batts and showed no sign of dampness.
Generalz Contracting shows on local webpages as a concrete contractor, and since 2011 all Generalz Contracting documents filed to the Companies Office have been filed by Ms Coker.
Ms Coker and Mr Gillard are also both listed as directors of Lileo Trustees Ltd.
When the Times contacted Mr Gillard, he refused to say whether he knew Ms Coker, what qualifications he held to inspect the home or to comment on the report filed to the tenancy tribunal.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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