'Amazing': Homeless moved from horror hotel

Owner Jacky Cheung has invested in budget cooking facilities. Previously there were none. PHOTO:...
Owner Jacky Cheung has invested in budget cooking facilities. Previously there were none. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Homeless people stuck in the infamous Carisbrook Hotel are starting to get out of it with the help of officials, after the Otago Daily Times exposed the building’s grim conditions and contacted government.

After the homeless people were slapped with eviction notices by owner Jacky Cheung last Friday, the ODT raised their case with the Ministry of Social Development.

The ministry has promised to respond to ODT later today.

However, one of the homeless people said they were already being moved to better emergency accommodation, describing their change of circumstance as "amazing".

"I am so happy they have got on to it straight away and have more of an understanding of the needs of people here."

They thanked the efforts of the ODT to "get help for people like us. It is the old story — it takes tragedy or publicity before change".

Another Carisbrook occupant has been contacted by several agencies, including probation, to arrange somewhere better for them to live.

A third, who recently left the Carisbrook after experiencing problems living there, is being offered help with mental health.

The building has also been made less risky and a little more habitable, thanks to the ODT’s revelations.

The Dunedin City Council confirmed officials responsible for fire safety and building compliance swooped into the building because of the ODT revelations — and found it did not have smoke alarms.

Mr Cheung has now fitted interconnected wireless smoke alarms.

The risk of fire in multi-occupancy buildings was brought to national attention following the deaths of five people in Wellington hostel Loafers Lodge in May this year.

The former Carisbrook Hotel. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The former Carisbrook Hotel. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Council building services manager Paul Henderson said the fitting of smoke alarms removed an "immediate danger" identified as part of checks to ensure the building was "being used lawfully and was safe for the occupants".

Mr Cheung has also provided a cheap-as-chips cooking solution for occupants — a two-ring hob and microwave.

Previously, there were no cooking facilities. People were cooking outside, or in their rooms, using camping stoves.

Authorities have been quick to stress actions taken by the landlord so far did not mean the Carisbrook was fully legally compliant or risk free.

As previously reported by the ODT, a "notice to fix" has been issued to Mr Cheung.

Mr Henderson said if Mr Cheung "wants to continue having tenants sleeping in the building, the Building Act requires him to notify the DCC of a change of use".

"A change of use would then require the owner to complete additional building works to ensure the building complied with the Building Code.

"The DCC will continue to work with other agencies where required on this matter."

However, last Friday, Mr Cheung issued the eviction notices, scribbled on torn pieces of paper, to the homeless people in the building.

The former leaseholder of the Carisbrook Hotel, Kirsten Clarkson — who left the building when the pub closed down earlier this year — said she had endured about eight years of poor building maintenance by owner Mr Cheung.

Ms Clarkson, who lived in the building with her wife and step-child, said the building had black mould, rotten windows and a leaking roof when her family was there — and blamed the building’s unhealthy state for bouts of illness in her family.

"When I saw he was using the building as accommodation, I thought ‘how the hell can he?’.

"I wouldn’t put someone in there.

"To see him walk in there as soon as the pub shut — and make easy money — well, I was just irate.

"The only language the landlord understands is the dollar sign.

"There are many people in this community who love the Carisbrook because it is one of the city’s historic buildings — it is so sad the pub has gone."