Napier Hill standoff: Disabled tenant given seven-day eviction notice over flood slip

A standoff is developing on Napier Hill after a disabled man was served a seven-day eviction notice from his Kāinga Ora home due to a slip near the property in November’s floods.

The man’s mother, Bronwyn Edwards, is fighting the decision by Whatever It Takes, which manages the tenancy of the Milton Rd property.

Edwards says the house, which was supposed to have been vacated on Friday, is not uninhabitable, and her son, who is a grand mal epileptic, has nowhere safe to go.

The pair of them haven’t moved a piece of furniture since receiving the notice on March 5, and say they’re prepare to stick it out until Kāinga Ora or WIT provide them with evidence that the house is not safe.

WIT says it’s just acting on Kāinga Ora’s wishes by evicting the tenant.

Kāinga Ora, which carried out the geotechnical report on the property, says it’s acting as a “responsible landlord” by vacating the property until it can be certain it is structurally sound.

THE MONTHS BEFORE THE EVICTION NOTICE

The floods, the worst in more than half-a-century in the city, brought down 242mm of rain in a day, including 54mm in a single hour between 5pm and 6pm on November 9.

The deluge brought a slip down close to a neighbouring property, and shrubbery and dirt fell on to the garden of the property occupied by Edwards’ son.

She says the slip never touched the house or the garden shed near it.

On February 11 Edwards was sent an email from WIT referring to a small section of a new geotechnical report, which she wasn’t allowed to see in full.

The email told them to arrange alternative accommodation until the property was deemed safe.

A Napier City Council building inspector then came and looked around the property and said it was liveable, so her son moved back in, Edwards says.

Then on March 5, Edwards’ son was served with an eviction notice by WIT which said under section 52 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 he had to be out on Friday, March 12.

WIT acting general manager Phil Ross told Hawke’s Bay Today they applied section 59 to the situation :

Section 59 allows landlords to evict tenants after seven days if houses are “destroyed” or “so seriously damaged as to be uninhabitable”.

Ross said the floods were not a normal event and had raised questions about the integrity of the property.

Kāinga Ora’s GeoTech report recommended the property remain unoccupied after the floods and Kāinga Ora had advised WIT to vacate the property, Ross said.

“We are contractually obliged to carry out the property owner’s wishes.”

Ross said WIT continue to work hard with MSD to find alternative accommodation for Edwards’ son.

WHAT WAS IN THE GEOTECH REPORT?

Kainga Ora regional director Naomi Whitewood said the report recommended the house remained unoccupied until several conditions are met. The conditions included:

·Loose boulders and materials are removed from the failed slope

·Options to stabilise the upper slope are assessed

·A structural engineer is engaged to assess damage to the structure.

“While the house may turn out to be structurally sound, as a responsible landlord, we want to err on the side of caution to ensure the safety of those living in our homes,” Whitewood said.

Edwards says the summary is not detailed enough for her to be certain the house her son lives in is uninhabitable and she wants to see the full report.

Ross said Kāinga Ora have not released the full report to WIT either.

“They have summarised the recommendations only. That is their right to release the report – or not.”

STRESS TRIGGERS SEIZURES

Edwards said the stress from her son seemingly losing the house he is happy in has triggered several seizures.

“Everything was coming together for him and then this happens,” she said.

The 39-year-old’s epilepsy can cause him to have more than 20 seizures a week which can be very severe and violent, and have the potential to leave him seriously injured, she said.

She says section 59’s use to evict her son in this case is “invalid” and she has hired a lawyer and filed a complaint to the Tenancy Tribunal.

The thought of her son not being able to stay here and having no other safe accommodation for him has made her angry and emotional.

“I’ve been working with him on getting his health in the best place it’s been for so many years.

“It’s amazing he’s still alive and we’ve finally got him to the point where he is healthy enough to attend an EIT course.”

She said WIT had tried to find other accommodation for her son, including offering him a room at Anvil Court in Hastings, but it wasn’t suitable.

“It is not an option socially or medically, it puts him in an unsafe place.”

She said the other places they had viewed posed what she felt was more risk to her than the Kāinga Ora home he is still choosing to stay in.

On Tuesday a further inspection of the property was instigated by Kāinga Ora. Its findings have yet to be made known to any party.

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