The tough rental market in Whanganui has brought one family to its knees in their search for a place to call home.

According to Government statistics, the median rent for a three-bedroom house in Whanganui is now $295 per week.

Rent Centre director Les Gould said that was a far cry from a year ago when, for example, a three-bedroom house in the city might have fetched $180 per week.

One family struggling to rent a three-bedroom house have found themselves in dire straits.

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The father approached the Chronicle, but asked not to be named because he was concerned speaking out might harm their chances of getting a place.

“The houses that are offered to us … especially the one offered to us yesterday. They said it was available now and fully refurbished. Well, when I went around the back and had a look … the place was just diabolical.

“The lawns were well overgrown, there‘s bricks and concrete right through the backyard. The tub was full of dirt, there wasn‘t a toilet in the house … the toilet was sitting outside the house.”

When he then asked the property management company about the state of the house, they admitted it needed finishing off before new tenants moved in.

“How can they … rent these squalors. It was unfit for a dog for $320 a week,” the father said.

“It‘s just shocking.”

He and his family had been happily renting a house for $220 per week but it had been sold and they had 25 days to find somewhere to live.

The man is a machinery worker. He and his partner, who have two children, collectively bring in about $580 per week.

“The properties that are reasonable are out of reach — $360 to $450 a week,” he said. “For people on a low income, the working poor, we just can‘t do it.

“How do you save for a mortgage? How do you maintain that sort of rent every week without having a bad reference by letting go of a couple of payments?

“My partner‘s on the brink of a breakdown as it is. Now they‘re trying to charge us double the rent for houses that you will be depressed in, just for someone else to have an asset.”
He had considered leaving Whanganui but found himself backed into a corner.

“When I went on TradeMe and looked at all of the houses at $250 to $360 rent from the lowest price, Whanganui was at the start of them.

“If we can‘t afford to do it here, where do we go? What do we do?”

Director of Landlord‘s Link in Whanganui, Tracey Onishenko, said it was difficult for people who didn‘t have good references in particular.

As to the quality of rentals available, she said her company wouldn‘t take on bad houses.
“We won‘t take a property that we don‘t think is warm and dry and fit. I wouldn‘t actually take on a property that I wouldn‘t think that I could probably live in.”

Her company had turned away many landlords when it was clear they were buying a property for high rent and didn‘t plan on doing any upkeep on it.

“To be honest, a lot of people, when I‘m showing them houses, they‘ll go, ‘Oh, this is better than what we‘ve just seen this morning, like you wouldn‘t put your dog in it‘.

“That‘s the feedback I‘m getting — that people are just renting crap.

“Also a lot of overseas investors are buying places in really undesirable areas … and then they‘re putting ridiculous rents up because they know there‘s people out there that can afford whatever you say because Winz [Work and Income] will help them out.

“They‘re taking advantage of that.”

Les Gould from The Rent Centre said many rentals were being bought up by homeowners who were buying them to live in.

But he said he hadn‘t seen many below par houses.

“All the properties we manage get inspected every three months and are in good condition.”

He said prices had gone up but that was what the market determined.

“Have they gone up markedly in the 12 months? Yes, they have — that‘s just market forces.

“Owners know there‘s a lot of tenants applying, so they put the prices up.

“We‘re driven by the private market, so if the private market is renting a house out for $250 and that‘s the price they are getting, we may feel that that‘s unfair but we can‘t rent out one of the houses we manage at less than that because then the owners aren‘t being looked after.”