Paying rent, but can't get in

5:59 pm on 9 December 2016

Residents in the area around a condemned central Wellington car park could be out of their homes until March.

Parking building on Tory Street is in danger of collapse.

The car parking building attached to the Reading Cinemas complex is in danger of collapse. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Among them is photographer Lance Lawson, who is still paying rent for his studio, despite being unable to use the rooms.

The studio is behind a cordon the council erected after engineers' reports showed the Reading Cinema car park was so badly damaged by the 7.8 magnitude Kaikōura earthquake it was not safe to enter.

The car park will be demolished, along with 10 cars still inside.

Wellington City Council site manager Phil Becker said although the demolition work should start by the end of the year, it would likely take two months to complete.

Mr Becker said frustration was mounting among some of the 200 residents who could not get into their apartments or office spaces.

Mr Lawson was among them.

"The tough part for us is that we have to carry on paying rent," he said.

"Because our building is intact, it is our problem that we can't get access to it. We have questioned the landlord's property manager about it and he has said we still have to pay rent even though we can't generate income from that building."

Mr Lawson would not disclose his rent costs, but had managed to cut his telephone and power.

"Those (utility) companies have been very good."

The rest of it was a headache.

"What do you do? It is a disaster, and it is out of my control, so you just hold tight and delve into those savings a bit more."

Wellington mayor Justin Lester said that was simply wrong.

"Technically, legally there may be an issue when the premises themselves have not been damaged," he said.

"I think there is a moral question there and I think there would be some strong ethical obligations around whether rental is required."

Mr Lester said he would "certainly be willing to lend my support to any tenant in that situation".

Cars will go with demolition

Mr Becker said the 10 cars still inside the building could not be retrieved.

"It is very likely that those cars will be victims of the demolition just because it's so unsafe to try and recover them," he said.

"So we're not even contemplating that because of the level of risk to people."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs