15 Apr 2015

26,000 complaints over Housing NZ repairs

5:54 pm on 15 April 2015

Tens of thousands of Housing New Zealand tenants are complaining of shoddy repair jobs and unfinished work carried out on their homes.

Figures released to Radio New Zealand show the department received 26,587 complaints last year about maintenance carried out on its 67,922 properties. Housing New Zealand said more than third were withdrawn or determined to be unfounded.

Piripi Grey

Piripi Grey Photo: RNZ / Alex Ashton

Piripi Grey has lived in his state house in Porirua, north of Wellington for 15 years.

The floor sagged in places, there were gaps in the door frames and the back door jammed because it was twisted out of shape.

"As you walk into the toilet you will feel the dip in the floor. This section of floor... was originally replaced I estimate about four or five years ago. But you can see there is a dent, you can feel it underneath your feet."

He said when he called Housing New Zealand his pleas fell on deaf ears, and even if the work did get done, it was not up to scratch.

"[Housing New Zealand] have got to get people, inspectors, to come in and inspect the work being done in these houses," he said.

Leaking roof

Jackie Robson, who lived in a Manurewa state house with her three children, said her home was giving her family chest and throat infections.

She said the problems started with a leak in the roof, covered up by a substandard repair job.

And despite a year of complaining, and about five visits from different contractors, the problem was still there.

"[There is] no electricity from all the way down my hallway, no outside lights, and no electricity in one of my end rooms."

"Due to the leaking roof, I got an electric shock from the water running down to the light switch," she said.

Housing New Zealand aimed to fix urgent maintenance issues within four hours; these include gas leaks, severe water leaks, electrical faults or powercuts.

Ms Robson said the work on her home was in that category but Housing New Zealand's response was anything but swift.

"When I told them that my roof was leaking and that it was going through to my mains switch ... I didn't have anybody here for three days.

"I ended up getting a big electric shock."

The Salvation Army's housing spokesperson, Campbell Roberts, said the tenants' stories were not rare, and he had heard many himself.

"[There was] a hot water tank that needed repairs, and the contractor came in, replaced the water tank, but didn't do anything about the cupboard that had been pulled out to get the tank out," he said.

"When the contractor was challenged about that he said 'well actually I'm only paid to take out the hot water tank, not replace it'."

The figures also showed that Housing New Zealand received 440,317 maintenance requests and its call centre received nearly one million calls.

Many complaints withdrawn

Housing New Zealand property services manager Marcus Bosch said 38 percent of complaints last year were withdrawn or determined to be unfounded.

Mr Bosch said there would always be occasions when things did not go to plan, but contractors were constantly reviewed on their work and response time.

The corporation's national manager maintenance delivery, Robert Galvin, said the agency carried out repairs to a high standard and generally achieved its time targets.

He said many complaints were not about the repair jobs themselves.

"Many of the calls we get are not about the quality of worked carried out, but rather the way the service was provided, or to ask for additional work to be done that wasn't part of the original request."

Last year 89 percent of tenants said they were satisfied with the maintenance on their properties, he said.

Meanwhile, the Government has released a breakdown to housing providers of where social housing is most needed.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said community housing providers and Housing New Zealand would be able to use the information to understand where the Ministry of Social Development expected to fund tenancies.

The information was released following requests from the sector for more information on social housing demand.

The breakdown showed Auckland and Manukau had high unmet social housing needs while the McKenzie District had almost none.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs