Illegal renting charge for Molesworth landlord

Officials are taking the owners of a now demolished Wellington office building to the Tenancy Tribunal for unlawfully renting space to residential tenants prior to November’s earthquake.

Wednesday, March 8th 2017, 12:00AM

by Miriam Bell

The high-rise building at 61 Molesworth Street, which was owned by Prime Property Group, was damaged in the 7.8 earthquake and was subsequently knocked down as it was ruled dangerous.

But, in the aftermath of the earthquake, it was discovered that parts of the building were being occupied by a family.

MBIE investigations team manager Steve Watson said this prompted his team to begin an investigation into the situation.

They found that the first floor office space had been rented to a residential tenant for the six months preceding the earthquake.

"The kitchen and cubicles were being used as bedrooms, the toilet was in a corridor through the fire exit, and the family was using a shower on the ground floor of the building,” he said.

"While there was no written Tenancy Agreement in place, both parties have stated that $300 rent was paid per week for the tenancy.”

It is not lawful to rent out space designated as commercial for people to live in.

MBIE is asking the Tribunal to order that the tenants, who came forward following publicity over the initial investigation, be repaid $6,000 in rent as well as $1,000 in damages.

It is also seeking an order to prevent Prime Property Group from committing an unlawful act of the same kind for the full six years available under the Residential Tenancies Act.

As the case is now before the Tribunal, MBIE won’t make any further comment on the matter.

But Prime Property Group CEO Eyal Aharon has previously told media that he did not think the company had acted illegally.

He said the tenants had wanted to stay in the building.

He also said he was unsure of how many people were living in the building at the time of the earthquake, but denied reports of large numbers.


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