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

A flat fit for mice

A flat fit for mice

The problems of flatting are often more than just those mentioned in the Handbook. Steve, a tenant in a one-bedroom Hataitai flat costing $22 per week, encountered problems with flatting and landlords. He initially paid $66 in bond and rent to the agents, Brailsford Real Estate, who act with a property manager for an absentee owner, Mr J. Merry weather.

After Steve moved in he found the kitchen hot water tap running; the steam and noise level kept him awake. Eventually he managed to turn the tap off. When he decided to cook dinner, the pot he took from the cupboard had mice droppings in it.

Photo of a weatherboard house

The following day he phoned Brailsford Real Estate. Although he specifically asked for the number of the property manager, Mr Prentice, they avoided telling him and said they would pass the message on.

A couple of days later, Steve fixed the tap himself; but it started raining.... a broken bed, soaked bedclothes and what Steve describes as a "waterfall" led to sleeping on the living room floor. When he went to have some supper he found that a thriving family of mice had beaten him to the fresh bread.

He phoned the agents and finally got the property manager's phone number. Together with his other complaints, he also told Mr Prentice about the washing machine which could only be plugged into the kitchen if he wanted any room to work round it. It was a struggle to work it even there.

On February 16 Mr Prentice came up to have a look at the flat. He said he would fix the roof and washing machine. He also collected the rent in advance, and said he would no longer need to come to the flat personally as Steve could deposit the money with the book provided.

That was the last he saw of Mr Prentice, or anyone else from the agency. By February 24 there was still a soaked mattress, wet linen, and a stinking carpet. He tried to phone Mr Prentice several times, with no success. Finally he decided to contact the Tenants' Protection Association. With their support he has now gone on a rent strike. He has appealed to the Rent Appeals Board. Furthermore, a building inspector has inspected the flat, and found it well below council standards, structurally and hygenically.

Action has started with the withholding of rent. This tactic, and using the Rent Appeals Board, may gain for Steve his citizen's right to decent housing.