A squalid Auckland property up for rent has house-hunters wondering just how bad this year's rental market is going to get - but all is not as it seems.
The six-bedroom property at the southern end of the CBD on Upper Queen St is advertised on Trade Me for $125 a week, but the small print reveals the landlord's actually looking for $25 a night per person - or $175 a week per person.
Photographs of the "newly furnished kitchen" show pieces of gib board resting up against mouldy, cracking wallpaper. Bedrooms appear to have water damage and are lacking skirting boards.
Carpets are loose, and one photograph appears to show a bathroom with a rough concrete floor.
"How does someone charge money to live in a very dirty run-down house?" one person asked Newshub, describing the property with a capital value of $890,000 as a "dump".
On the surface it appeared to be yet another example in the long line of Kiwi landlords charging exorbitant rent for run-down shitholes (to quote the President of the United States).
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Newshub contacted the man leasing the property, Arun Ramachandran, to ask how he could justify charging people to live in it.
Turns out, he isn't.
"We don't want anybody to live there," he said.
Mr Ramachandran told Newshub he took the lease on the property a year ago, and is in the final steps of getting consent to run a backpackers at the location.
No one lives there, and no one will be - even temporarily - until the place is fit for habitation and the consents are issued.
"There was somebody who wanted to move in immediately - but I told that person we have yet to complete the place, and once we are completed we'll let them know."
The reason he ran the advert before the place was ready was to test the waters for how much he could charge.
"Most backpackers start around $35, $40 in the area. We just wanted to see what people would be happy to pay for this place - the location is not quite on the main circuit, but still in a prime area."
Accommodation supplement 'normalising' higher rents
Members of the public phoned into RadioLIVE's Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury on Monday morning with their own tales of swindling slumlords, and some theories on how they get away with it.
"Fifteen or more years ago, rents were fair. If you were living in a dump you were only paying $20 or $30 a week and it didn't matter," said caller Chris, who blames the Government's accommodation supplement for low-income earners for "normalising" higher rents.
Canterbury man Phil agreed, calling it a "false economy".
"It hasn't made diddlysquat's worth of difference, and probably made it worse especially for the ones who can't get the subsidies - they have to get the money elsewhere."
He left home at 17, saying his place cost only $38 to rent - but it wasn't even worth that much.
"I was only there about seven weeks. I thought home's a lot better than this shithole."
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He says the Government needs to bring in a housing warrant of fitness. One of the new Government's first acts was to pass the Healthy Homes Bill, which allows it to set minimum standards for rentals.
To save money, Phil said he moved his family - including young children - into a tent.
"We only intended on being in there for a month-and-a-half or so, but we ended up being there from the end of October, start of November, and by the time April came, there was frost settling on top of the tent."
Even then, the kids didn't want to move out - they loved the tent - but he knew better.