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From car life to rental hell: black mold, cold shower and no hot water

Georgiah, 22, was tired, desperate and living in her car with two toddlers when she rented a rental property in Christchurch without seeing her.

Her children became so ill at the “awful” Upper Riccarton property that she moved them to a motel.

She described the house, seen by Thingsbecause under-insulated, insufficiently heated, with black mold and at the time no running hot water in the shower.

The property manager, who oversees around 30 homes across the city and has racked up 52 residential tenancy law violations, is currently under investigation by MBIE.

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After Georgiah left, the three-bedroom rental, for which she was paying $640 a week in rent, was converted to six bedrooms.

Property manager, Mohammad Liton Biswas of Daffodil Property Management, achieved this by dividing the living room into three bedrooms.

A current tenant, who would only provide her first name Rachel, said she moved into a room unseen based on photos of a tidy house, but described the house as a “dump” of mold, cold, little privacy, with an ant and flea infestation and no remote control for the heat pump. The ever-changing individual tenants each pay $120 to $190 a week, she said.

The Department for Trade, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) Tenancy Compliance and Investigation Team (TCIT) is investigating Daffodil, which would include checking the property’s Healthy Homes Report, said said Brett Wilson, MBIE’s National Compliance and Investigations Manager.

Property manager Mohammad Biswas, aka Joseph Adam, of Daffodil Property Management, at a property he manages in Upper Riccarton is being investigated by MBIE over the legitimacy of his Housed Healthy Homes report.

KAI SCHWOERER/Stuff

Property manager Mohammad Biswas, aka Joseph Adam, of Daffodil Property Management, at a property he manages in Upper Riccarton is being investigated by MBIE over the legitimacy of his Housed Healthy Homes report.

“We can confirm that there have been 52 violations by this owner regarding a previous matter,” Wilson said.

Biswas – also known as Joseph Adam on the rooms ads on Facebook – says property owner Refrew St allowed the changes and doesn’t think he did anything wrong, despite tenants describing the renovations as “improvised”.

Biswas blamed the mold on tenants who didn’t open the windows and later said he would remove two of the rooms.

MBIE documents show the Biswas company was implicated in 25 tenancy court findings, the majority of which ordered tenants to pay back rent.

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However, there have been several breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act, ordering it to reimburse tenants for things such as failing to meet healthy home standards.

In 2020, MBIE filed 52 claims against Daffodil Property Management for various alleged violations of the law relating to a house it previously managed in Hansons Lane, listed as belonging to the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China.

He was ordered to pay exemplary damages related to multiple rentals – including the Hansons Lane address – in the amount of $16,262 for 50 non-bond filings and 52 failures to provide compliant insulation declarations .

One conclusion stated that “boarding house tenants are often vulnerable”.

A current tenant describes the Upper Riccarton property as a "slum".  These images were taken when a former tenant lived there.

Provided

A current tenant describes the Upper Riccarton property as a “dump”. These images were taken when a former tenant lived there.

Like all private landlords, boarding house owners or property managers must include a statement about the property’s compliance with healthy home standards in any new or renewed tenancy agreement.

Georgiah said she had applied for more than 50 rentals and was desperate to find a safe place for her young family. So she took the Upper Riccarton property after seeing it on the Facebook market.

Surviving on a benefit meant Georgiah was “last in line” for private rentals and a poor credit history meant she struggled to be accepted for properties listed by agencies.

“I am on subsistence allowance due to a serious injury that prevents me from working,” she said.

”I have two beautiful children aged 1 and 3. My rent is automatically paid by Work and Income and I can immediately transfer my deposit through Tenancy Services.

Rachel said she wanted to stay in the Upper Riccarton house for the winter because “some of us have nowhere to go except on the street”. She was also concerned that Biswas had entered without notice, albeit in accordance with the rules for renting pensions allowed in common areas.

Biswas said he manages between 28 and 30 properties, some of which he sublets to other property management companies. He owned another two-bedroom property.

About seven of them are classified as boarding houses, which he rents room by room to tenants over 18 years of age.

This image was taken when a former tenant lived in the house, before property manager Mohammad Biswas converted it into six bedrooms, rented per bedroom.

Provided

This image was taken when a former tenant lived in the house, before property manager Mohammad Biswas converted it into six bedrooms, rented per bedroom.

He claimed there was a radiator in the hallway of the Upper Riccarton house and a heat pump in a room that had been converted from a living room to a bedroom.

“I believe it’s 100% OK.”

He said the rental services’ previous enforcement actions against him were because he did not understand that isolation bonds and declarations were still required for every tenant in a pension situation.

Christchurch City Council’s regulatory compliance team is investigating the Upper Riccarton property, its regulatory compliance officer, Tracey Weston, said.

Biswas claimed that Georgiah owed him rent and would fight any complaints made against him through rental services.

MBIE’s National Compliance and Investigations Manager, Dan Herlihy, said landlords must comply with all relevant laws and ensure that maintenance or repairs have been completed before tenants move in.

“All rental properties must have working smoke detectors and ceiling and floor insulation unless they meet the exception criteria,” he said.

Tenant Protection Association director Cristene Trenuela-Chan said it was sadly a “common story” that people were losing hope of finding accommodation after months of trying.

Additional reporting by Vicki Anderson.