'Slumlord' tells remaining Johnson Place tenants to vacate
One tenant has contacted Crux to say those left at the "famous and problematic" Johnson Place house have been told to leave the property by the end of October by landlord James Truong.
The tenant says there are currently nine people left living at the property, and they have concerns about how all of them will secure alternate accommodation whilst it is “still very difficult” to find a place to live in Queenstown.
In an email sent to tenants yesterday (Tuesday, September 19) and seen by Crux, Mr Truong details the tenancy termination follows a notice from the Queenstown Lakes District Council to return the property to a 'single attached dwelling'.
“The property can no longer operate as a boarding house, and I therefore need to review how I manage and let it going forward.
“I am sorry for the inconvenience this may cause but unfortunately I have no option but to comply with the council notice.”
According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Mr Truong asked remaining tenants to sign a boarding house tenancy agreement in July.
To lawfully terminate a boarding house tenancy, a landlord only needs to provide 28 days' notice, and does not need to provide a reason.
The tenant spoken to today by Crux says those living at the now boarding house have not had any contact about the notice to vacate from MBIE's Tenancy Services team, who have inspected the property multiple times, or from the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
Neither authority has yet released final outcomes of investigations into the property and the actions of Mr Truong for potential breaches to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987, Healthy Homes Standards, Building Act 2004 and Resource Management Act 1991.
The separate investigations were launched in late June, after Crux first began reporting on the overcrowded rental, then home to close to 30 people.
A garage and external sheds were being rented out to tenants, despite these spaces not being consented for residential activity - Mr Truong had previously been instructed by the QLDC in 2019 not to rent these out - and Crux was told of frequent power outages at the property, sometimes lasting for hours, and an absence of smoke alarms.
Mr Truong was charging up to $490 for a double room, with Crux calculations at the time suggesting the property brought in close to $7,500 a week rent.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council was contacted by Crux today to see if they were aware of the tenancy terminations, and if they had directed Mr Truong to do so. Their response was vague.
"Every landowner is required to comply with the Building Act 2004. The onus is also on the landowner to ensure that the use of a dwelling complies with the categories of use set out in the Building Code. Using a residential dwelling as a boarding house requires approval as it is a change of use under s115 of the Building Act 2004, and may have additional building code requirements. This is a matter for the landowner to resolve."
While in a written response to questions today from Crux a MBIE spokesperson says its tenancy team was made aware of Mr Truong's intention to ask tenants to vacate the property, although they did not ask him to do so.
The spokesperson says they will continue to work with tenants and the landlord involved in this case, however can not disclose any other details on the investigation as it still ongoing.
A new ‘Notice to Fix’ has appeared in the QLDC's online filed property documents directory for 7 Johnson Place, however, files relating to this notice are not available to the public. Crux has sent a LGOMIA request to the council asking for these documents.
The online resource has also shown there are new ‘infringements to the outdoor living space and noncompliance with the rear boundary, for breaches to the Resource Management Act 1991', and this is 'awaiting monitoring inspection'.
Crux is not aware of the whereabouts of all of the tenants who have already vacated the property, however, some individuals were originally looked after by their employer and put into a staff house in Queenstown, while others have left Queenstown altogether.
Mr Truong has previously illegally evicted tenants, prior to the conversion to a boarding house tenancy, when five men living in the main garage at the property were ordered to leave with less than twenty-four hours' notice, without a reason given.
A former tenant of Mr Truong's in Christchurch referred to his landlord as a "slumlord" as a result of his multiple rental properties of substandard condition.