Author: Amy Ridout

A Nelson couple made an early morning dash to disable their rental property's locks after discovering it was being sublet on TradeMe as four "mini-apartments".

The couple were "horrified" to see the bedrooms in their house, which they had hoped would be rented to a family, listed as containing kitchenettes with a jug, mini-oven and hob.

The rental income from the individual tenancies was almost twice the amount the couple had agreed on with their property manager, Annabel Black.

Joe Waller and his wife Kay Pastorius-Waller said they signed a management agreement regarding their property with Black in April.

After holding an open home, they say Black told them a building company would be renting the property to families who were waiting for their homes to be built.

The couple, who had dealt with that building company before, were "thrilled" someone responsible would be leasing the house.

Pastorius-Waller said she called Black two weeks after signing the lease as they prepared to go on an overseas holiday.

"We had been asking for a copy of the contract because we were leaving on the Wednesday for nine weeks," she said.

They were shocked to discover the building company was not listed as the tenant on the document, but instead an individual, Daniel Pluck. 

To compound their shock, their neighbour called to tell them their rental was already on TradeMe.

The listing, created by Pluck, advertised four tenancies. "Each room had a kitchenette, and the listing said smoking was okay," Waller said.

The listing was aimed at professionals looking for a "healthy, affordable, comfortable and safe" home.

The couple, who had "expected a family with a couple of kids" to rent the house, were horrified by the separate tenancies.

Pastorius-Waller called Black. "I said: How would you like to live next door to nine different people? She said, I already am, and it's fine," Pastorius-Waller said.

Pastorius-Waller then got in touch with TradeMe, to ask them to remove the listing. 

During the sleepless night that followed, the couple discussed their options. At 2am, unable to wait any longer, Waller drove to the house to disable the garage door and the locks, so Black, who had a key, couldn't gain access.

They revoked their agreement with Black and felt she had misrepresented them.

"If someone's willing to take on a risk of four tenancies that's fine, but we didn't want to be in that position," Waller said.

When the couple showed their single-page management agreement to their lawyer, she told them they shouldn't have signed it, he said. It had few conditions, and nothing about subletting or smoking.

The experience had left them feeling vulnerable, upset, and wary of renting again, he said. He warned potential landlords to do their due diligence when letting their homes.

Black previously featured on Stuff in July, when tenants spoke out about properties they were renting through her which they said were dirty, rundown and cold. 

A spokeswoman from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment told Stuff it was continuing to investigate complaints regarding Black's company, Blacks Property Management.

Pluck told Stuff he had made it clear to Black he was acting for himself, not for his employer.

However, he admitted he was wearing his building company uniform at the open home as he was on a late lunchbreak, where he had chatted to Pastorius-Waller.

"The lady commented saying, 'I see you work for [the building company], we had a great experience working with them'. My conversation didn't go past that, it wasn't appropriate to bring up at the time what my intentions were."

Later, he said he contacted Black with his proposal, telling her that while his building clients might live in the home, it would be his name on the contract.

"[Black] should have told them it was Daniel Pluck and not [the building company]. I checked with her three or four times."

Pluck said he came up with his shared housing idea after meeting people looking for somewhere to live while their homes were being built, he said. He drew on a similar scheme he'd seen in Australia and Queenstown.

Pluck initially told Stuff the building company knew about his side gig. "They knew I was running houses like this as a side business." 

However, he later changed his account, saying his employer knew only that he had rental properties, and Stuff had "twisted his words".

Pluck left the building company in August when they downsized, he said. "I was ready to leave anyway."

The building company's general manager told Stuff he had no idea Pluck was offering a shared housing service to its clients.

While Pluck never successfully housed any of its clients, he manages another shared tenancy, he said.

Nelson Labour Party Policy Council chair and housing advocate Rachel Boyack said the case showed a need for better regulation of property managers.

"The Pastorius-Wallers had an understanding about how the tenancy would be managed and Annabel Black went in an opposite direction."

She warned property owners to make sure their contracts were water tight, and to take legal advice.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) spokeswoman said a tenant can sublet from a landlord with written consent. However, the Residential Tenancies Act did not apply to the relationship between the Pastorius-Wallers and Black.

Black did not respond to a request to comment. 

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