Senior cop owns illegal garage rentals

Frank Grant
Frank Grant

Two illegal garage rentals let to tenants for hundreds of dollars a week are owned by a senior police officer, Newshub has discovered. 

Auckland Council confirmed the garages don't have any permits or consents to be used as a dwelling - they are illegal conversions and can't be lived in. 

Yet south Auckland property manager Debbie Iskandar is letting the garages out.

And in some cases, tenants are being referred to Ms Iskandar by Work and Income, which is also paying their bonds.  Ms Iskandar also receives accommodation subsidies. 

Newshub has traced back the ownership of two of the illegal garage conversions to a company. Companies Office documents show the sole director of that company and 80 percent shareholder is Frank Grant. Mr Grant is a police inspector in the Waikato district. 

Mr Grant told Newshub he was aware the garages had been tenanted on an ad-hoc basis. He says one property, which is the subject of a Tenancy Tribunal complaint, is now vacant.

But the Tribunal has already ordered: "If there is no council approval for the sleepout to be used for residential purposes, then no rent may be claimed."

Asked if he would refund money to garage tenants at that address, Mr Grant said: "I will work through a process first, considering all the information at hand before I can make a firm decision on what my next steps will be."

Mr Grant says he rents a second property directly to manager Ms Iskandar and she sub-lets it to other tenants. Using the prices she quoted to Newshub's undercover reporter, that property, including the illegal garage accommodation, can bring in more than $1900 a week.

However Mr Grant says, "I don't know about big money 'cause the rent I am charging is probably enough just for the house."

Our undercover reporter arranged to meet Ms Iskandar to view a home owned by an Angela White. Ms White told Newshub she had no idea the illegal garage conversion was being let for $420 a week.

She added she also had no idea who Ms Iskandar is - her property is being managed by real estate agency Barfoot and Thompson.

Agency director Kiri Barfoot says Iskandar is the tenant in the house, and sub-letting the property is a breach of her tenancy agreement.

When our reporter visited Ms White's property, Ms Iskandar told him there were already nine people living there.  She offered to rent him a room for his four person family, taking the occupants to 13, and she still had one room left to let.

Ms Barfoot says when Ms Iskandar rented the property she said she would occasionally have people to stay for a night, through her church group.

"In terms of helping the homeless, that is quite different from charging them quite a lot of money and renting the place out room by room. We are absolutely shocked by what she is doing."

Based on the prices Ms Iskandar quoted to Newshub, this property can make more than $1500 a week.

Barfoot and Thompson says the property was inspected - but Ms Iskandar had two days' notice, and it was tidy.