Mouldy, damp rental blamed for toddler's ill-health

by RNZ / 31 May, 2017
Mould in the house's living room. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

Renewed calls to make warrants of fitness for rental homes mandatory.

A Kapiti family says their rental property is so mouldy, damp and hard to heat that they would be better off living in a tent.

In April, their 1-year-old daughter caught bronchiolitis from living in the cold house, and the doctors referred the family for a healthy housing assessment.

They are now living with family nearby, and are on a Housing New Zealand waiting list.

Irene Kirk and her partner, Kelly Walker, are on a limited income, and the house they can afford to rent in Paraparaumu is damp and mouldy.

They said they did what they could but it was a hard house to heat: there is a gaping, uninsulated hole in the ceiling above the fireplace, for example, and in their old bedroom, the paving outside the house can be seen through a gap in the floorboards.

Mould in outside paving that is visible through a gap in the floorboards. Photo / Michael Cropp

It was about 12°C in Paraparaumu that morning, and it was no warmer inside the house. In fact, in some rooms, it felt even colder.

Miss Walker said last month their daughter got sick as a result.

"Our baby has been admitted to hospital three times with respiratory problems," Miss Walker said. "The third time it was quite bad because she ended up in ICU with bronchiolitis."

"It was scary, she had feeding tubes in her, she had IV lines in both her feet - it was [scarier] for me because she just ripped them all out."

Kelly Walker and her 15-month-old daughter. Photo / Michael Cropp

Miss Kirk said mould had recently been chiselled off the wall of the room they used to sleep in.

"It's disgusting, aye," she said. "The people that had been living here before us had been here for 10 years. They had two kids ... and they were getting sick all the time. Hospital."

The doctors, suspecting the housing situation had caused the bronchiolitis, referred the family for a Regional Public Health-run Well Homes assessment.

David Pierce would like to warrants of fitness for rental homes made mandatory. Photo / Michael Cropp

The assessor, David Pierce, who works for the Sustainability Trust in Wellington, inspected the rooms for drafts and mould, poked his head into the ceilings and crawled under the house.

He gave the women tips on minimising moisture and keeping the heat in.

The problems with the house were bad enough to affect the tenants' health, Mr Pierce said.

"This house is open plan, so the family has difficulty controlling the heat distribution," he said.

"There's obviously a moisture issue somewhere, so that's either water coming through the roof ... or damp soil under the house. The net result is that there is mould and quite a high level of mould, especially in the bathroom and one of the bedrooms, which is a concern."

There was quite a high level of mould detected, particularly in the bathroom, said Mr Pierce. Photo / Michael Cropp

His organisation would like to see warrants of fitness for rental homes made mandatory, because tenants would know houses were safe before they moved in, he said.

Landlord Phil Gapes said he bought the property about 18 months ago - and the previous owners did not do any maintenance.

Since then, he said he had fitted insulation where he could and fixed multiple leaks in the roof.

He was now hoping to fix up the mouldy bathroom and install a heat pump.

Mr Pierce said he would write up a report - including recommendations - from his assessment, which he would then share with the landlord.

For tips on how to keep your house warm and dry.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

New 'treaty' for Aboriginal empowerment owes much to New Zealand Maori
75169 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z World

New 'treaty' for Aboriginal empowerment owes much …

by Bernard Lagan

It's an overdue voice for Aboriginals and was wildly misinterpreted by those who should know better.

Read more
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band revisited
75317 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z Music

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band revisited

by Graham Reid

Half a century ago the Beatles released Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Graham Reid considers the album and its reissue.

Read more
Small business by the numbers – why the sector defies generalisation
75517 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z Small business

Small business by the numbers – why the sector def…

by Rob O'Neill

Small businesses are vital to New Zealand’s economy, but efforts to understand them continue to fall short.

Read more
What to do and see in Wellington
74641 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z Sport

What to do and see in Wellington

by Noted

You lucky little blighters! Wellington really is a fantastic place to… well, do almost anything.

Read more
One smart way to win the America's Cup is to dare to be different
75588 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z Sport

One smart way to win the America's Cup is to dare …

by Paul Thomas

Team New Zealand’s grinders use their legs; Oracle’s use their arms, as did the grinders on every other boat that took part in the America’s Cup regat

Read more
On Radio: July 1, 2017
75492 2017-06-26 10:18:52Z Radio

On Radio: July 1, 2017

by Fiona Rae

The best of the week.

Read more
Crossword 1033 answers and explanations
Winston Peters: Kiwis in regions should get their fair share
75466 2017-06-26 08:35:11Z Politics

Winston Peters: Kiwis in regions should get their …

by Benedict Collins

Winston Peters wants New Zealanders in the regions to benefit more from the wealth they help generate.

Read more