Thursday, July 09, 2015

Leaving Pook Farm; Generation Rent Edition

My suspicions were first aroused when my property manager told me not to panic. The absentee landlord in Australia had decided to sell up, but not until much later in the year.

That was late February. 28 days later, she wrote to say that the real estate guy had convinced the landlord to sell up right now. Within a week, any reasonable expectation of privacy at Pook Farm had been shattered.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 has this to say on the subject of when a landlord decides to sell a tenanted property:
47. Landlord to give notice to tenant of intention to sell
(1) If, at any time after entering into a tenancy agreement, the landlord puts the premises on the market for the purposes of sale or other disposition, the landlord shall forthwith give written notice of that fact to the tenant.

(2) When a landlord is offering residential premises as available for letting, the landlord shall inform prospective tenants if the premises are on the market for the purposes of sale or other disposition.
That's it. No mitigation for the sudden inconvenience. In fairness, this law was written years before all the cowboys rode into the landlord business following the Bolger government's state house sell-off in the early 1990's.

I had been living at Pook Farm for close to four years. For all its faults- threadbare original 1950's carpet, cardboard walls, an open fireplace I was contractually forbidden from using- it was a sweet flat.

A lemon tree out the back, along with a prodigious plum tree which rained fruit every January. My three chickens provided fertiliser for both, as well as omelets for me. Out the front was a raised vegetable patch, which I was half-way through installing when the house pimps sold me out.

The current landlord had bought the property as a holiday bach at the wild heights of the beachfront property boom in 2003. He had bought at auction at a wildly improbable price, some 120-150 thousand above valuation. He chose the same real estate agent who sold it to him, to sell it for him too. Welcome to the double-dipping world of realty.

Although bitter with the real estate agent, I won't name names. Their nefarious tactics go with the territory. According to the Readers Digest Most Trusted Professions Survey 2014, real estate salespeople rank 44th, worse than journalists but better than insurance and car salespeople, sex workers and politicians. Housing Minister Nick Smith's latest brain-fart of a Clayton's Housing WOF- no bark, no bite- entirely justifies this placing.

My excellent property manager had been keeping an eye out for another hovel for me to move to, but the Keynesian make-work scheme of the Kapiti Expressway had put a strangle-hold on rent prices, not to mention all the former Wellingtonian poor who had been squeezed northwards as the social housing stock in the capital was condemned as an earthquake risk.

Fatalistic as ever, my one consolation was that it would all be over in a month. My home would be on the auction block in the first week of May, and one way or another I'd know whether I was sold as a going concern, along with the land and chattels, or whether I'd be out on my ear with the legal minimum of 42 days' notice. Homeless with chickens.

Auction day came and went, where it failed to reach the vendor's minimum. He'd settle for a seventy grand haircut, but not an eighty grand one. I paid anyway. Every Sunday afternoon between 1:15 and 1:45 was Open Home eternal, where strangers tramped through my home, casing the place, weighing it up like a piece of meat.

Men from Porlock would randomly drive up to the gate in SUVs at every other time and stare at me staring at them. Bolder capital venturists would trespass the threshold, which wore thinner each time, to the point where my bark would set off the neighbour's dogs. Things were getting increasingly sweary.

There was no time to think, let alone write. Life on Vogshere is full of slappers. Time to leave. First thing to go was the chooks. They ended up out at an Otaihanga Farm, where they apparently amuse themselves now by breaking out of their pen and turning up at the neighbours' houses.

Next, there I went on reconnaissance for a new roof. After finding an alternative that did not completely suck, I moved. Yeah Napier, where I do not know a goddamn soul. For Lease signs for Africa through the CBD, but that's no different from most town centres these days. Box shops and free parking suck consumers out of the centres out to the periphery, while draconian liquor laws suck the remaining life out of the CBD.

At least there's hope, sometimes peace. But there's no rest for Generation Rent. We're the Walkabout People, the nomads.