REINZ: 'Shocking' garage rentals unprofessional

Debbie Iskandar (Newshub.)
Debbie Iskandar (Newshub.)

The professional body which represents property managers has condemned the actions of a woman caught subletting garages illegally.

Debbie Iksander has been charging desperate families between $250 and $550 to live in garages which don't have the necessary permits or building consents to be lived in. Tenants say Work and Income has even pitched in to pay their bonds, some as much as $2000, and is also giving Ms Iksander their accommodation supplements. Work and Income referring tenants to illegal rentals

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) spokesman Bryan Thomson says Ms Iksander shouldn't call herself a property manager.

"A property manager is charged with making sure that a tenant is appropriate for a property, [and] maximising income for the landlord who owns the property," he told Paul Henry on Thursday morning.

"Subletting of a property is not something that would normally be allowed under any tenancy agreement promoted by a proper, professional property manager."

Ms Iksander told an undercover Newshub reporter she's got nine people living in one house she rented through Barfoot and Thompson, and was happy to put a family of four into a single one of its empty rooms.

Barfoot and Thompson inspected the property recently, but found nothing amiss. Mr Thomson says that doesn't mean she wasn't doing anything wrong.

"People can be sneaky - no matter how hard you try, sometimes, if a person is determined to take personal advantage of a person on either side of a transaction, it's difficult sometimes to catch them."

Mr Thomson says the problem stems from a lack of regulation around the property management industry.

"Back when the real estate agency legislation was changed some years ago, the Government at the time chose to take property management out of the legislative envelope, so there is no legislation governing professional property managers.

"REINZ has been working really hard… determined to make sure the Government and agencies involved understand that legislation is needed to protect both the landlord and the tenant. It doesn't exist at the moment and that's just wrong."

Ms Iksander could be just the tip of the iceberg - as there is no register of property managers, and no qualifications are needed, there's no way of telling how bad the problem is.

"When you see people at the struggling end of the chain in regard to trying to find accommodation for themselves and their families being taken advantage of, it's actually shocking."

Homelessness is rising in New Zealand, particularly in Auckland where rising rents and house prices have forced thousands either onto the streets, to live in their cars or onto friends' couches and into garages and other precarious living situations.