$9857-a-week rent de­mand

Let­ters sent in er­ror, min­istry says

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By RHI­AN­NON McCON­NELL

Hun­dreds of let­ters have mis­tak­enly been sent out in­form­ing Hous­ing New Zealand clients that their rent has been raised – in some cases, by as much as $10,000 per week.

Can­nons Creek res­i­dent Los­alina So­saia, 59, is one of 320 clients who have re­ceived such let­ters from the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment since it took over re­spon­si­b­lity for the so­cial hous­ing wait­ing list in April.

Last week, So­saia re­ceived a let­ter from the min­istry stat­ing that her weekly rent was be­ing raised from $272 to $9857 per week.

‘‘I looked at it and thought, that right?’’’ So­saia said.

‘‘I was re­ally shocked and it felt like a heart at­tack. That let­ter is

‘Is re­ally dis­gust­ing. I want to know who sent this let­ter and who wrote it.

‘‘With that let­ter, they are try­ing to kill peo­ple. I don’t know who I can be­lieve.’’

Look­ing for an­swers, the 59-year-old cleaner at­tempted to ring the min­istry, but gave up after be­ing left on hold.

She tried again last Mon­day, with Kapi-Mana News present, and after a 58-minute wait she was first told no let­ter had been sent out, and then that a fault in the com­puter sys­tem had led to the mis­take.

‘‘There’s been some tech­ni­cal is­sues. We are go­ing to get it sorted as soon as pos­si­ble,’’ she was told.

Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment hous­ing as­sess­ments gen­eral man­ager Marama Ed­wards, whom the let­ter was signed by, later said the let­ters had been sent in er­ror.

Kapi- Mana News asked the min­istry about the proof­read­ing of let­ters sent out, but was not an­swered di­rectly.

In­stead, Ed­wards said au­to­mated let­ters were sent out with re­vised rent based on a sys­tems- gen­er­ated max­i­mum in­come if the client had not pro­vided full in­come de­tails.

‘‘ We have been con­tact­ing clients in th­ese cases to ex­plain why they have re­ceived this let­ter, and in con­junc­tion with hous­ing providers, ad­vis­ing them of the cor­rect rate once we have their in­come de­tails.’’

But So­saia said the let­ter had al­ready done dam­age be­cause she had wor­ried she and her hus­band would have to move out of their home of 29 years. The cou­ple moved to New Zealand from Samoa in 1976.

Mana MP Kris Faafoi said that though the $9857 fig­ure was ob­vi­ously an er­ror, the let­ter was another ex­am­ple of prob­lems after the merger of de­part­ments ear­lier this year.

‘‘If the two de­part­ments can’t get this right imag­ine the con­fu­sion the ten­ants are in.

‘‘Their world, in terms of their land­lord, has been turned up­side down and now they are get­ting a $10,000 bill in the mail,’’ Faafoi said.

‘‘It’s a new sit­u­a­tion, but it’s not a new is­sue, so hope­fully they can sort it out sooner rather than later.’’

Have you ex­pe­ri­enced hous­ing prob­lems with the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment? Let us know at ed­i­tor@ kmananews. co. nz or phone 2378118.

Photo: RHI­AN­NON MCCON­NELL

Con­cerned: Hous­ing New Zealand ten­ant Los­alina So­saia.

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