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Housing New Zealand intensifies approach to damage

For immediate release

3 March 2008

Housing New Zealand intensifies approach to damages

Housing New Zealand is intensifying visits to high risk state homes as part of a new push to help some tenants look after the properties they are living in.

“Most tenants in state homes take pride in their homes, and care for them. In these tenancies, damage only occurs through accidents, such as a child throwing a ball through a window. At present, less than 10 per cent of the Corporation’s 68,000 tenancies have a damage debt,” Housing New Zealand chief executive Lesley McTurk said today.

“However, there are a small number of state house tenants who need help looking after their homes, and in recognition of this Housing New Zealand has introduced a more assertive, consistent and targeted approach to ensuring tenants do so.

“Housing New Zealand aims to inspect each of its properties twice a year, but we recognise that to better control damage to some state homes, tenancy managers must be on the doorstep of some properties a lot more often,” Dr McTurk said.

“For the past year, Housing New Zealand has been improving internal practices to ensure greater consistency in the way damage to state homes is charged and recorded, as well as focussing tenancy managers on targeting high risk properties, where there are issues that are causing damage to the home.

“Housing New Zealand has a policy of charging the costs of damage to tenants where it has been caused by tenants. Tenants are then required to repay the costs over time.

“Where we identify clear evidence of a pattern of damage to state homes, Housing New Zealand will work with tenants to help them change behaviour, or resolve issues that may be making it difficult to look after their home. These might be issues associated with overcrowding, or youths. If necessary, tenancy managers will meet with tenants on a monthly basis.

“If these actions fail to bring about improvement in the care of the home, the Corporation will apply for mediation, and ultimately ask the Tenancy Tribunal for tenancy termination,” Dr McTurk said.

“The impact of this assertive and more targeted approach has been immediate. In the first six months of this financial year, there has been an 11 per cent rise in the costs of damage recovered from tenants. By December 2007, almost 80 per cent of current tenants who had damaged state homes were repaying money to the taxpayer.

“A tougher approach is also evident for those who refuse to improve their behaviour. The number of applications to mediation or the Tenancy Tribunal by the Corporation have increased by almost 10 per cent in the year to January 2008.

“In the short-term, a more intensive approach is likely to continue to push up damage debt among tenants, as we identify more incidents of damage, but over the medium-term I expect to see a positive impact on the overall care of state homes,” Dr McTurk said.


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