Critic puts abusive boarding house emails on cover

The front page of Critic magazine that hit the shelves yesterday. Photo: Supplied
The front page of Critic magazine that hit the shelves yesterday. Photo: Supplied
After a landlord allegedly told student magazine Critic to "remove your filthy stinking lying bitch-whining bullsh** story", it hit back and put the very emails on its latest cover.

University of Otago student magazine Critic - Te Arohi, which also drew national headlines in 2018 with its "menstruation issue", revealed the provocative cover on Sunday pointing to a story about a student's rental dispute.

Critic alleged tenants at a boarding house on Heriot Row, were being asked to pay out fixed-term contracts, when the law said they could leave after giving 48 hours' notice.

According to Critic, the property's landlord was not happy about a 2018 article on the issue, and wrote an email to them recently reading: "REMOVE YOUR FILTHY STINKING LYING BITCH-WHINING BULL***T STORY ABUSING US OFF THE WEBB NOW OR FURTHER ACTION!!!!!!!!!!"

The Herald has viewed a copy of this and other similar emails, and contacted the landlord via the same email address.

The landlord told the Herald she did not send the emails, but somebody else did, using the email address. She would not say whom.

She said she had only read the first line of Critic's story, but insisted it was "all lies".

Instead of caving to the demands to retract its story, Critic published an image of that very email on its latest cover.

The front page of Critic magazine that hit the shelves yesterday. Photo: Supplied
The front page of Critic magazine that hit the shelves yesterday. Photo: Supplied

Critic editor Charlie O'Mannin said that when researching and reporting the story the magazine had received many abusive messages that purported to be from the landlord, and decided to call her out.

"Her messages were completely out of proportion. We were very certain - and still are - of our story and decided to call out her behaviour."

When asked for comment about whether she had rented out the Heriot Row boarding house on an unenforceable, illegal fixed-term lease and led students to believe that they had to pay rent on a fixed-term basis, the landlord allegedly wrote back to Critic: "WE SUGGEST YOU WRITE ABOUT OTHER PROPERTY NOT OURS WHICH YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT. THERE IS ALREADY ANOTHER ARTICLE FULL OF LIES ABOUT IT BY RETALIATING LYING TENANT AND MORE LYING AWFUL CRITIC REPORTERS."

Along with calling out the landlord's apparent behaviour, O'Mannin said the magazine wanted to draw attention to the "major issue" in Dunedin of students overpaying rent while staying at boarding houses.

The article by staff writer Erin Gourley said if tenants were renting a room in a property defined as a boarding house they could leave the property after giving 48 hours' notice.

However, the Tenancy Tribunal found tenants at the Heriot Row property had been signing fixed-term leases while the property was defined as a boarding house.

Because it was up to the tenants to argue a property was a boarding house in the Tenancy Tribunal, many students unaware of the law were signing fixed-term leases in situations where they did not need to.

O'Mannin said this was a big financial issue for many students who left the city over the summer and did not want to continue paying rent.

The magazine had received "overwhelmingly positive" reactions to the cover and story after they were published on Sunday, he said.

"We have already had five emails from students this morning who had signed fixed-term contracts in boarding houses. This has huge ramifications, as students will save thousands over summer."

O'Mannin said it was student media's responsibility to push the editorial envelope on big issues.

The latest controversial cover comes after a 2018 issue that featured a naked cartoon figure menstruating.

Hundreds of copies of the student magazine were removed from stands around the Dunedin university campus and disposed of in a dumpster by members of Campus Watch.

Then-editor Joel McManus said he considered the removal to be censorship - something that went against everything a university should stand for.

"We stand by the content of the magazine, and believe it touched on a number of very important issues about period poverty and trans issues, as well as breaking taboos about a bodily function that half the population experience."

University Proctor Dave Scott "unreservedly apologised" to McManus in what a university spokeswoman described as a positive meeting.


Rack renters have no connection with the menstruation story. That was controversial. This one calls out intimidation, and speaks truth to power.

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