Te­nancy frauds un­cov­ered by HNZ

Central Leader - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

Fraud in­ves­ti­ga­tions have led to 28 Hous­ing New Zealand ten­an­cies end­ing in Cen­tral Auck­land over the past year.

The re­cently re­leased fig­ures cover the 12 months to June.

In one case the renter sub­let their state house af­ter mov­ing to Aus­tralia.

The for­mer ten­ant started liv­ing in the prop­erty in 2008 when they were a ben­e­fi­ciary.

In Oc­to­ber 2011 they told HNZ they were leav­ing, but then with­drew their no­tice.

In 2012 a te­nancy man­ager dis­cov­ered dur­ing a prop­erty in­spec­tion that the ten­ant had in fact left in 2011 and in­di­vid­u­ally sub­let each of the bed­rooms in the house.

A rel­a­tive was man­ag­ing the ten­ants and col­lect­ing the rent.

A war­rant has been is­sued to ar­rest the ten­ant on fraud charges if they re­turn New Zealand.

HNZ is also try­ing to re­cover $30,000 from an­other Cen­tral Auck­land per­son who claimed to be sin­gle and on a sick­ness ben­e­fit since 2006.

The per­son was ac­tu­ally

to run­ning a suc­cess­ful home busi­ness and liv­ing with a part­ner who worked in a skilled trade, de­spite also claim­ing to be a sick­ness ben­e­fi­ciary.

‘‘Th­ese cases are the ex­treme,’’ HNZ in­ves­ti­ga­tions man­ager Bernard Holle­wand says.

‘‘The num­bers are still very low. We only in­ves­ti­gate about 1 per cent of our ten­an­cies na­tion­ally.’’

HNZ has 5100 properties in the Cen­tral Auck­land area.

Ninety per cent of ten­ants’ rents are sub­sidised based on their in­come while a small pro­por­tion pay the mar­ket rate.

‘‘They are peo­ple whose cir­cum­stances have changed to the point where they don’t need in­come-based rent any more. We have no in­ter­est in them,’’ Mr Holle­wand says.

He says cases of fraud come to his team’s at­ten­tion by peo­ple call­ing the con­tact cen­tre with in­for­ma­tion, te­nancy man­agers notic­ing in­con­sis­ten­cies or through in­for­ma­tion passed from other de­part­ments.

‘‘For in­stance, the pro­ba­tion ser­vice might con­tact HNZ to get per­mis­sion for some­body to serve an elec­tron­i­cally mon­i­tored sen­tence at a HNZ ad­dress and it will be for a per­son that has never been de­clared as liv­ing at the ad­dress.’’

Once it’s found a ten­ant has been dis­hon­est they can be pros­e­cuted, are re­quired to pay back the amount or rental sub­si­dies they have wrongly re­ceived and are not en­ti­tled to a state house for a year.

‘‘The big win from our point of view is get­ting houses back for peo­ple who re­ally need them. There are peo­ple on the wait­ing list,’’ Mr Holle­wand says.

Pol­icy changes in 2008 saw HNZ firm up its ap­proach to­wards fraud and crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity in its properties.

‘‘The vast ma­jor­ity of HNZ’s 62,000 ten­an­cies on in­come re­lated rent are le­git­i­mate, a small mi­nor­ity are rort­ing the sys­tem.’’ .

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