Monday, March 14, 2011

Overcrowding Issues

We ask people why they want to move home when they look at rental properties we have available. The last year or so has had more and more people answer 'our house is too crowded'. We have begun to ask just how many people makes their house crowded. The worst number reported to date is 11 in a 3 bedroom house, four generations of the one family. We can't say how many people are under-reporting. Overcrowding has the stigma of poverty. We know a number of people tell us there is 4 of them in one bedroom, and we don't know how many more are in the lounge room floor. For tenants, overcrowding is an issue with health implications - mental and physical. There are safety and security issues. Hygiene is an issue - will there be hot water for everyone? Where will towels dry? Is there room in the kitchen to wash the dishes? Can that number of people be fed easily in a standard sized kitchen? Is there someone too quiet or too weak to get their share? And diseases love crowds - they get transmitted easily from close contact, particularly in humid rooms from many breathing bodies. Tensions run high and tempers flare - just check any reality TV programme to see what can happen when people are cooped up together too long. For landlords, more people has building issues - there is a lot more wear on the building and fittings. Stove elements burn out quicker when cooking large heavy pots full of food. Paint gets scraped, bathrooms never dry out between showers, bedrooms and living rooms get damp from all the expiration and perspiration, so mould develops everywhere. Plus, they have the risk of someone accusing them of providing unsafe and unhygienic housing. Saying 'it was fine when they moved in' doesn't really convince the housing inspector. There are large penalties for unhealthy homes - what is caused by the building and what by the tenants will be disputed. Are homes overcrowded because rents are too high? Maybe that is a factor for some. However, a home in Porirua rents for as little as $12 per room per day. Just 20 minutes down the road in Wellington city, this could be $33 per room per day, and occupied by a student, almost 3 times as high a cost. So no, cost alone is not it. Are homes overcrowded because people do not pass the checks prudent landlords do? I think we could be onto something here. Someone with a steady job, a steady family structure, a steady head, and a steady renting history should not struggle to find themselves somewhere to live. Those who seem to be piled in with all the relatives seem to be out of work, out of their relationship (for now), out of their tree, and out of favour with their previous landlords. Hmm, no wonder no one wants to take a chance on them. What's the solution? I don't think the landlord has much chance of sorting this out. Asking 'how many free-loading relatives will move in with you if you get the property?' is not likely to be popular nor solicit an honest response. Be careful with your tenant selection, restrict the number of occupants in the property, inspect regularly and hopefully tenants will get the message overcrowding is not good for them, nor popular with you.

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