Criminals infiltrate rural area

Police in rural areas around Dunedin are warning property owners to be careful about choosing tenants after increasing problems with criminal activity at rental properties.

In the past 18 months, Waikouaiti police had dealt with drug offending, theft, burglary, driving offences and family violence at several addresses where tenants had misrepresented themselves to secure rental property leases, Constable Jon-Paul Tremain said in his report in this month's Powa (Progress of Waikouaiti Area) community newsletter.

The trend of people inaccurately describing their living situations to get a rental property had "grown significantly" in the past 12 months.

Police were having the same problem in other Otago towns, including Hampden and Palmerston, he said when contacted.

Const Tremain said criminals, or others, who wished to evade the attention of police for whatever reason typically targeted rural and semi-rural locations.

"The isolation and a smaller police presence are the main reasons, and they will take advantage of rural folks' general good nature in order to get what they want."

The main approach police had noticed, and one commonly used by organised crime groups, was the landlord being approached by a well-presented female, with or without children, looking to rent a property.

No partner or associate was mentioned and was almost never present at any face-to-face meeting with the landlord.

However, within a short time of the address being tenanted, a male appeared on the scene.

"Invariably, his associates begin to make appearances and the situation deteriorates, with issues arising such as ongoing parties, noise complaints, arguments and domestic violence and issues with the destruction of property."

People contacted him because they did not know what to do about their tenants, he said.

Police advice was to never rent a property to someone without seeing them face-to-face, to insist on references, have clear rules about sub-letting and animals, and insist on meeting all parties, including partners, intending to move into the address.

"Treat the process the same way as a job interview.

"So, have a series of questions prepared."

Having tenants who respected property and neighbours not only benefited landlords, but the wider community as well, Const Tremain said.


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