Trade Me urged to tighten checks and balances for illegal rentals

Source: 1News

Advocacy group Renters United has joined forces with 11 other organisations in an open letter calling on Trade Me to bring in tighter checks and balances over illegal rentals.

One of the aggrieved tenants calling for change is Marcail Parkinson, whose Wellington flat "doesn’t have opening windows".

"They don't even have an option to open them – they're just completely sealed shut," she told 1News.

She and her friends found the flat on Trade Me.

The central city apartment is a converted office block. Instead of opening windows, it has a dehumidifier with a hose out of the window.

A dehumidifier with a house running out of the window.

The contraption does not comply with the healthy home standards - specific minimum standards for heating, insulation and ventilation - which became law in July 2019.

In addition to the lack of airflow, Parkinson says there is also "a little bit of mould growing around the place".

"We've got no airflow which means that when I caught Covid a couple of weeks ago, everyone else caught it in a matter of days."

The country’s largest online auction and classifieds website, which boasts 40,000 visits from hopeful tenants every day, earns up to $329 per listing.

"They are earning money from these illegal listings and it's about time that they acted and did something about it," Renters United’s Geordie Rogers said.

Marcail Parkinson's central Wellington flat has windows which are unable to be opened.

Renters United and 11 other organisations - including the Child Poverty Action Group and the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations - have penned an open letter to Trade Me to ask it to introduce steps such as a tick box where landlords can declare whether their rental is legal. The tick box is in place for users selling cars on the site.

"All we're asking for is that fairness and consistency be applied in an area where the reasons for this information are really compelling and self-evident," Child Poverty Action Group’s Frank Hogan said.

But Trade Me said a tick box is not "the ultimate solution to this challenge", adding that the Government should be the one to enforce property rules.

"We feel that better enforcement from Government agencies is a better solution to the challenge," Trade Me Property sales director Gavin Lloyd said.

There has been no shortage of properties listed on Trade Me which have made headlines in recent years, from sheds to windowless basements.

Lloyd says illegal listings are removed immediately and any fees related to the listing are refunded.

Trade Me said it would use a database of properties which meet the healthy home standards if one was created.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says there is no requirement to lodge healthy homes accreditation with tenancy services.