Christchurch tenant locks out Housing NZ

Mr Wilkinson's house in New Brighton (Newshub)
Mr Wilkinson's house in New Brighton (Newshub)

Inside Stuart Wilkinson's New Brighton house are several cages, one on top of the other and tucked into a small room between the kitchen and lounge. Each one has a chinchilla inside, except the cage closest to the window - that has a white rat.

In the front yard, hidden behind some of the seven vehicles, is a small hen-house where chickens live.  

The backyard is sectioned off for the 15 prize-winning chihuahuas to play during the day. They sleep inside, out of the cold, at night.

It's obvious Mr Wilkinson is an animal-lover.

The wallpaper in the lounge is hard to see in-between framed certificates from past dog shows and portraits of all his award-winning breeds. They've been collected over the 14-and-a-half years he's lived in the home with his wife and two children.

But Housing New Zealand (HNZ) wants the family out.

Mr Wilkinson owes more than $4000 in rent, which he stopped paying in May after receiving a 90-day notice. That's when HNZ discovered Mr Wilkinson was being prosecuted for benefit fraud by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

Once the partially-disabled Mr Wilkinson stopped paying rent, the Tenancy Tribunal granted HNZ immediate possession of his house, from Monday.

HNZ has applied to evict 4 percent of tenants this year to June.  

"Ending a tenancy is a last resort and would only ever take place after numerous and significant attempts to engage with the tenant have been unsuccessful," says HNZ regional manager Jackie Pivac.

"Most people are honest and use Government services fairly, however Mr Wilkinson failed to declare to MSD regular income that he receives in addition to his benefit."

But Mr Wilkinson, who says he's been "hard done by", has locked his front gate with two bicycle locks to buy him more time.

"I know we're going to have to shift out, but when we only get four days' notice after we've been in here for 14-and-a-half years, it's near impossible to find a house and shift in four days where we can take our dogs." 

Two dogs that live at the residence (Newshub.)

As for the dogs, Mr Wilkinson says he has consent, but a policy change at the start of the year meant they weren't allowed.

"We had written permission from HNZ. We have the responsible dog owner status which means we can have up to 15 dogs. All our dogs are registered, they're microchipped they're all pedigree show dogs."

HNZ says there's been no policy change - the dogs were never approved, and an application for them to be there was turned down.

"An application by Mr Wilkinson to have 15 dogs living at his property was declined because of the damage the animals were causing to the property and grounds," Ms Pivac says. "Like most landlords, we generally don't allow dogs in our properties. We are, and have always been, upfront with our tenants about this and it's in the tenancy agreements that they sign when they first move into a property."

Being located in an east-side suburb, the house is earthquake-damaged. HNZ wants it fixed and says it's a health and safety issue, but staff have been refused access by Mr Wilkinson.  

Last night he was offered a house to shift to in Oxford, but needs time to make the move and he said he would have to find the money needed up front to move in.