Being close to my son means living in an unhealthy home: Glen’s story

September 7, 2015 1:21 am

by Glen

I moved into my house in April 2013. It is a two bedroom house and I pay $360 a week. My son stays with me three nights a week.

That first winter was cold and damp, and I started a long series of emails to the property manager requesting improvements. There was no action until last winter, when the landlords fitted four panel heaters.

This was a welcome improvement, but only a partial solution. The house haemorrhages heat. The windows are single pane sash windows and the wind howls through the gaps in the frame. If the outside temperature is eight degrees, the hall, kitchen and bathroom temperature is eight degrees.

In winter the house is effectively a single bedroom house. My six year old son sleeps with me because his bedroom is too cold and damp. On very cold nights I sleep in the living room in my three-season down sleeping bag. I sleep well, but it feels a little extreme to bivouac in the living room.

An inspection by the Sustainability Trust, ten days ago, revealed that insulation underfloor and in the roof is up to current standards.

The real problem seems to be inadequate ventilation. Condensation is endemic and mould continues to accumulate on the inadequate canvas blinds in my bedroom. Mildew accumulates on beds and all furniture, including my stereo speakers. I have two dehumidifiers running almost full-time and I turn the futons back each morning to combat mildew. I do not cook or shower at home in order to minimise condensation. The clothes in the built in wardrobes go mouldy within two weeks and my son has a permanently snotty nose. Damp Rid, dehumidifiers and the panel heaters cannot keep pace with the moisture, and the electricity bills are alarmingly high.

I have shared all this with my property manager. I do not wish to be confrontational. It is not my style. I am a careful occupant and I care for the property for the landlords. Four property managers have been and gone during my tenancy. The current incumbent seems sympathetic but action is frustratingly slow.

The best solution to the problem of dampness, condensation and constant mildew would be to fit a proper ventilation system in the loft space, with a heater unit for cold weather. The owners are unwilling to invest in such a system. They have committed to installing temporary double glazing, which sounds rather like cling film. Additionally, thermal curtains are promised, and maybe even a heat pump, but there is a suggestion that the heat pump may be a step too far for the landlords. They have opted for a cheaper, Bandaid approach, which may be satisfactory, but I have reservations.

Yesterday the property manager’s maintenance man turned up to water blast thick moss from the outside steps, which had become very slippery. He also cleared some of the roof gutters, which I requested two years ago. It has taken such a long time to get action.

I have refused to re sign the lease contract until all work is completed, which seems reasonable to me.

Unfortunately, there are very few properties for rent in my price range in Karori, Northland or Kelburn ($360/week is my max). I am self employed and my income has slipped to $43,000 before tax in the year to 31 March 2015.

I want to stay near to my son, whose home is about one mile away.

Note: This is an edited version of an email sent to us by one of our members. We haven’t used his surname in order to preserve his anonymity. If you have a story to share, please let us know.

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