Illegal occupants refuse to leave $2m St Heliers home




An Auckland landlady thought her nightmare ended when she managed to evict a “tenant from hell” from her $2 million St Heliers rental property.

Instead, it got worse after occupants who the tenant had sublet the house to refused to move.

The illegal tenants remain in her property and the desperate home owner is at a loss about what she can do.

Nina Zhao, 34, said her family bought the four-bedroom house as a rental property two years ago because they thought it would give them an “easy income”.

They found a tenant after advertising the rental on local Chinese website Skykiwi.

“We are new to this, so we didn’t know anything about doing credit or police checks,” Zhao told the Herald.

“My father accepted the tenant after looking at him, because he looked decent and was dressed like a businessman.”

Over two years, Zhao did not make any property inspections because she didn’t think it was necessary.

In June, Zhao informed the tenant that she wanted to move into the house – and went there to make a property inspection.

When Nina Zhao visited the house she found a padlock on every bedroom door.

“I was shocked to find that he had sublet the property to four families, each occupying one room,” Zhao said.

“There was a padlock on every bedroom door and l learned from the occupants that he has been collecting rent from them and making a profit.”

She found the property, which has an estimated value $2.225 million, in a state that was “like a rubbish dump”.

“There was rubbish everywhere, cans of urine on the front garden and the backyard was like a jungle.”

She took the tenant to the Tenancy Tribunal for rent owed and for damages to the house.

The tenant could not be reached for comments, and did not return the Herald’s call.

Nina Zhao said there were cans of urine in the garden and the backyard was like a jungle.

The tenant was served a termination notice, and the tribunal said there was no dispute that the notice ended his tenancy on July 14.

However, the tribunal said occupation of the property thereafter became confusing.

“It then appears that [the tenant] vacated as required . . . but did nothing about the occupants left in the property,” the tribunal decision says.

The tribunal ruled that the remaining occupants were not lawfully entitled to occupy after the tenancy ended.

But they are refusing to move on, and are instead inviting friends to move in.

The home owners say they had not inspected the property for two years as they didn’t think it was necessary.

When the Herald entered the property with Zhao yesterday, two bedrooms were padlocked, one was vacant and a woman was in the fourth bedroom.

The woman said she was a friend of one of the occupants and had just moved in.

She said she didn’t know how many people were living in the house, or that she was living there unlawfully. She said she was not paying any rent.

When Zhao went to the property earlier, she claimed one of the illegal occupants told her: “I will pay rent only if you take off your pants.”

She alleged her mother was assaulted and the occupant had made threats.

“I was really scared so I called the police,” Zhao said.

The police came to the property, Zhao said, but they told her the matter was civil and not criminal.

The Herald sought comment from police yesterday but had not received a response last night.

New Zealand Property Investors Federation executive officer Andrew King said it was shocking that police wouldn’t act.

“It is incredible that a young woman being told to take her pants off to get rent money owed isn’t an illegal act and the police won’t get involved,” King said.

King said the case showed how dysfunctional the Tenancy Tribunal system was when emergency action was needed.

He said the landlord in this case also had been given poor advice.

“The people remaining in the property are not squatters but sub tenants of the original tenant that was evicted,” King said.

“Once the original tenant was evicted, any sub tenants were also required to leave.”

King said the landlord could have immediately engaged a court bailiff to remove them if they refused to vacate.

“Accompanied by the bailiff, the landlord could have told them to leave immediately and changed the locks to the property.”

King said the waiting time for landlords to get a tribunal hearing and an eviction was eight weeks, and this was usually after an eight week wait for the original hearing and possession order.

“The long waiting time to get a Tenancy Tribunal hearing is poor service for both landlords and tenants,” he said.

“The system needs to change.”