'Swamp house' family told to get out

Water pooling underneath the Papakura home. Photo: supplied via NZ Herald
Water pooling underneath the Papakura home. Photo: supplied via NZ Herald

A family living in an Auckland "undrained swamp house" are being evicted after going public about the insanitary living conditions.

Dawn Robbie, her partner Cameron and their two young children have been living for the past 21 months in a rental house that floods underneath every time it rains.

Dawn Robbie. Photo: NZ Herald
Dawn Robbie. Photo: NZ Herald
Robbie said as a result the house was damp, cold and making her family sick.

Manurewa-Papakura Ward councillor Daniel Newman highlighted their case with Auckland Council, labelling the house "an undrained swamp, unhealthy... mosquito infested, prone to flooding and unworthy of the $520 weekly rent".

The council investigated and issued an insanitary notice on August 31 - giving landlord Aven Raj 10 days to resolve the property's issues or face a $200,000 fine and an extra $20,000 each day the issues remained.

Robbie told The New Zealand Herald that five days later on September 4, they were given a 90-day eviction notice by the property manager.

"[The property manager] actually called up earlier that day to introduce herself. She said nothing about the eviction notice."

Robbie said they received the notice via email, without giving a reason.

"We were pretty upset, we didn't see it coming. We just wanted the issues to be fixed. We didn't want to have to leave our home."

Since the council's insanitary notice was issued Robbie said the drainage issues at the property had been fixed.

"Workers came around and put a pipe in under the house. All of the water has been drained, it is dry and they have put in polystyrene insulation."

Auckland Council visited the property on Tuesday and lifted the notice, Robbie said.

"The only remaining issue was a bit of mould in one of the rooms and the bathroom, but the main problems have been fixed."

Robbie and her young family have applied for several rentals so far but are having some issues given the high profile of their current case, and finding a place that would accept their dog.

"I knew raising these issues would be a challenge, but this was not the resolution I was asking for. I didn't want to be kicked out just for going to media.

"If we hadn't done that [the landlord] would have done nothing.

"It is hard for tenants. It is not OK and not how it should be. We are living in a swamp house and it took media for action be taken. Now we are being evicted."

Robbie said the Tenancy Services, part of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, was taking a case against their landlord on their behalf.

Newman said he was "disappointed", but not surprised the family was evicted.

"For a long time this landlord has not taken responsibility for his property. Now the family has gone public he does not want them living there.

"This family deserves a good house. They are a good family, pay rent and did the right thing."

Newman said any renters facing similar issues should take it up with Tenancy Services.

"Dawn and her family have, and I suspect they will win."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the case highlighted the need for a warrant of fitness for rental properties.

Landlords would have to prove a house was up to liveable standards before leasing it out.

"You can't lease or sell a dangerous car to anyone in New Zealand, there are warrant of fitness checks for that"' Davidson said.

"To be able to lease a house that is life-threatening to a family with children under 4 years old is not acceptable. Everyone deserves to live in a dry, warm, healthy home.

"To argue against this is to defend the minority of landlords doing the wrong thing and putting families at risk of life-threatening respiratory illness caused by mould."

The property manager has been approached for comment.

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