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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 1. 6th March 1974

Govt bungles cost tenants their home

page 2

Govt bungles cost tenants their home

Government Departments have never won prizes for their efficency. The Labour Department's Rent Appeal Authority is no exception as a Lower Hutt tenant found out.

Mr Grant Quinn of 47 Totara Cresent, an AMP Insurance agent, is the landlord of the flat at 18 St. Ronans Avenue, Lower Hutt. Paul Scaife and his wife were the tenants.

They first became tenants of Mr Quinn when Mrs Scaife worked for Quinn in the Salon de Camp, a hairdressing salon he owns. One of the perks of the job was that the Scaifes were allowed to rent the flat for $15 per week.

They moved into the one bedroomed flat in October 1972. In October 1973 Mrs Scaife resigned her job with Quinn. He said that the Scaifes could only stay on in the flat if they paid $22 a week rent from then on. Mr Scaife said that this was too high; he agreed to pay $20 a week. When Quinn would not accept this, Paul Scaife took the lawful course of referring the rent to the Rent Appeal Authority, run by the Labour Department. In the meantime he refused to pay Quinn any rent.

The Rent Appeal Authority was told by Quinn that the tenancy was not an ordinary one, but was part and parcel of Mrs Scaife's employment with him. He claimed that the Authority therefore had no jurisdiction. The Authority refused to make a decision until Paul Scaife could prove that his was not a service tenancy but an ordinary tenancy. Although he produced rent books and cheque butt to prove that he paid the rent as in an ordinary tenancy the Authority would not consider his appeal. Quinn's tactic enabled him to avoid having the excessive rent lowered. If the Authority had just referred the claim to anyone with the slightest knowledge of the law of tenancies, Quinn's claim would have been laughed at and ignored.

Meanwhile, while the Authority bumbled [unclear: assed,] and Mr Scaife had not [unclear: paid] Twice while the Scaife's were out, Quinn moved in with his men and took all their furniture and threw it in the street. He called the police to help him, but was told that it was a civil matter and that the police would not help him. Later, on one cop said "if I had tenants and they were a fortnight behind in their rent, I'd throw them onto the street!"

So the Scaifes were without a home. The law offered them no protection. Landlords are the only group in the community who are allowed to take the law into their own hands and get away with it

The Tenants Protection Association which picketed Quinn's workplace believes that no tenant should be evicted from his home unless the landlord has provided suitable alternative accommodation at no extra cost. There should be no eviction without a court order given only after the landlord has shown a just reason, like those under the old tenancy act. Decent housing is a social right for every New Zealander. No person should be put on the street, or stay there, because of the whim of a profit-hungry landlord.

At present unless a landlord agrees, tenants have no right to bargain with their landlords. Tenants' Protection believes that just as workers have the right to with-hold their labour, the source of their employer's wealth, tenants should also have the right to with-hold their rent.