Exclusive: PM can't legally live in official PM house

A quirk in the law means it's illegal for Bill English to move into the Prime Minister’s official residence.

Mr English isn't allowed access to taxpayer-funded accommodation - because he's a Wellington-based MP.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister told Newshub that because Premier House is Crown-owned, it fits under the taxpayer-funded category.

"As a Wellington-based MP the Prime Minister is not entitled to taxpayer-funded accommodation."

All Ministers that aren't based in Wellington are entitled to claim accommodation allowances of up to $41,000 per year. Wellington-based MPs aren't entitled to it to prevent double-dipping - owning a house plus claiming expenses to live in Wellington.

Because Mr English lives in his family-owned $1.2 million house in Karori - he can't have Premier House too.  

When Mr English was officially announced as John Key’s successor last year, he said he wouldn’t move into the premises because he was happy in Karori.

But just because Mr English can't move in doesn't mean it's up for grabs - instead, the official residence will effectively just become a function venue  

The Prime Minister’s office today confirmed that no one will move into Premier House - even though his deputy Paula Bennett's accommodation is costing the taxpayer almost $40,000 a year.

Ms Bennett received $39,316 last year in a taxpayer-funded accommodation allowance and she will continue to claim that.

"There are no plans for anyone else to live in Premier House which is regularly used for a variety of official government purposes including functions and hosting international guests as well as by schools and charities," a spokesman for the Prime Minister said.

Ironically, the last person to get caught up in a double-dipping scandal was Mr English in 2009.

He was forced to pay back $32,000 in accommodation payments after it was revealed he lived full time in his family-owned home in Wellington.

Mr English at the time tried to defend himself - even seeking legal opinion from Stephen Kos QC as to whether he was entitled to the payments.

And in a further twist - the residence will likely remain empty for at least the next four years.

If Labour leader Andrew Little wins the election, he'll face the same trouble because he's Wellington-based as well.