MBIE remains on case of problem landlord
The government’s rental watchdog continues to build a case against Queenstown ‘slumlord’ James Truong as five of the migrant workers he wrongly evicted continue to seek safe, ongoing accommodation.
The Balinese hotel workers had paid more than $1000 a week to live in an illegally converted garage on the Johnson Place property, before Mr Truong booted them out under increasing pressure two weeks ago.
One of the men tells Crux the group have been provided temporary accommodation by their employer, who continues to help them to find a more suitable longer-term solution.
He says they have a viewing early next week for a potential property.
The men had a tenancy agreement with Mr Truong, that should have provided them protection against sudden eviction.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s tenancy compliance investigation team is continuing to investigate Mr Truong and his Queenstown rental and is encouraging any tenants with concerns to come forward.
National manager Brett Wilson says there is not much he can say about the case while it is under investigation for fear it could prejudice the outcome.
It is still unknown how long it will take for his team to decide what needs to happen at the property and what consequences there will be for Mr Truong.
But Mr Wilson says MBIE has the ability to issue improvement notices, infringement notices, and financial penalties to any landlord found to be in breach of the Residential Tenancies Act.
He says the team knows about the men who were kicked out of the garage.
“We understand that some tenants have left the residence and we are investigating whether this was done in a lawful manner.”
Other tenants have also left the property - Crux spoke to one who said he felt unsafe in the house and that it was having a detrimental effect on his mental health and another who chose to leave after being hit with a rent jump from $330 to $490 a week.
MBIE first began investigating the rental after Crux reporting on unsafe, overcrowded and substandard conditions at the central Queenstown property, home to close to 30 tenants housed between the original residential home, the garage, and several external sheds.
The coverage has prompted former tenants to come forward, including a Christchurch resident who said he lived at the property six years ago, with Mr Truong as landlord, and was shocked to see little had changed in that time, despite multiple inspections by the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
Current tenants who have talked to Crux have sought anonymity, as Crux also revealed Mr Truong threatened tenants who talked to media with eviction, camped out at the property to stop tenants from bringing media inside, and pressured tenants to sign testimonials stating they had no problem with the landlord or the rental arrangement.
Police area commander Paula Enoka says her team wants to hear from any tenants regarding harassment or intimidation.
“We will speak to anyone that comes forward. Sometimes the complaint may not meet the ingredients of a criminal offence and therefore there is no further action police can take, however sometimes there is evidence that we can investigate further.”
Main image: Images of the overcrowded rental, a converted residential home with as many as 30 tenants.