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WINZ 'not responsible for vetting garages'

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/07/2016

Work and Income says it isn't responsible for vetting accommodation after referring families to illegal Auckland garages rented for up to $400 a week.

The social agency says councils are responsible for policing living standards after its attention was brought to the case of property manager Debbie Iskandar.

The Auckland Council says several garages rented out by Ms Iskandar are illegal conversions, Newshub reports.

Tenants who lived in the garages say they had been referred to her by WINZ and the agency had helped pay Ms Iskandar for their accommodation.

They said WINZ should not be referring people to Ms Iskandar.

But Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive Ruth Bound says they have not directed people to her for at least six months.

When WINZ registered landlords it was not about vetting the accommodation, rather it allowed it to make payments to the landlord on behalf of clients, Ms Bound said.

"Individuals need to make their own, informed, decisions before entering into a tenancy agreement, and any concerns around legality of dwellings should be directed to the local council."

However, it was taking the issue seriously and was looking into it further, contacting the clients to try to help them.

Labour says the situation is a new low in the housing crisis.

"Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett needs to explain why the government thinks it is acceptable for it to refer families to live in garages and sheds," said housing spokesman Phil Twyford.

"What's next, dog kennels?"

The government was putting money into the pockets of slum landlords in bond and rent in advance but not vetting the standard of accommodation, he said.

It should instead be spending more money on emergency housing, Mr Twyford said.

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