$9857-a-week rent demand
Letters sent in error, ministry says
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.
Concerned: Housing New Zealand tenant Losalina Sosaia.