Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Slum Landlords Exploit Beneficiaries



I notice (with concern) about the massive overblown reaction and newstime taken up with the credit card debacle. I have also seen that Paula Bennett has been busy but under-reported. I have misgivings about what is being attempted as a "distraction" exercise.

Claims about widespread welfare fraud are designed as an excuse to bring in a US style corporate welfare managment, including aping the US rationale for arbitrary "time limits" for benefit payments social security system, and the consequential substitution of cash payment for food stamps and rent rebates provides an new welfare industry opportunity for "charity" corporates, and their industry suppliers. Many of these organisations expect and get free labour, goods and services from beneficiaries, often funded with tax payer money.

Recently Bennett revealed the private details some beneficiaries’ incomes, implying that the beneficiaries received too much. In fact a large proportion of a benefit is often going to a landlord for inflated rent to keep a roof over their heads, or for power bills to heat a possibly poorly insulated home, unmarketable to anyone else. Some people at P.S Survivors may get a few hundred dollars per week on paper; but almost all of this goes to the landlord. In reality it can be as much as three quarters of the weekly payment.

If this bribe was not given to the real estate industry, land agents would not be able to "unload" the substandard properties they have on their books that are unattractive to wealthier clients. They seek to have any goverment over a barrel doing this. If benefits were reduced the result would be a covert lock out of beneficiaries altogether as they have already done with their secretive "bad tenants list" compiled from Baycorps book. Reality is that if you have a Baycorp debt of any kind or even a history in some cases it can be impossible to get a land agent to let you sign a lease.

Beneficiaries are shown through the properties but do not get to rent them unless they are unwanted by wealthier clients. I could write a book about the tactics used by land agents to get the benefit payout and find a way to short change tenants. For example, the use of key money, or an extra payment, sometimes as much as $100 up front for the landlord to show the tenant the property and administer and applications. This successful but legally questionable practise prevents beneficiaries from applying for properties the agent wants to make unavailable as WINZ will not provide this.

To get around the "Human Rights Act" they often drop the charge on less desirable properties (Slums). My friend was in one when her son had a terrible accident on the power lines caused by an old still live power unit from Vector hidden in the shubbery at the front of the house. He lost an arm and sustained massive internal injuries. She was also hounded by the press as a negligent parent over this.

If a WINZ client is successful they are often subject to stand-over tactics, eg; more inspections, neighbour surveillence and reporting on everyday activities, rented homes put on the market when they were told it would not be, false or inflated damage claims as excuses to cut short on the lease duration and withhold the bond Etc Etc ETC.

This is before considerations of food and living expenses. Most are on regular food parcels as a result. Giving food parcels as assistance is a first step to food stamps. Unfortunatley most recipients only feel gratitude not entitlement.

In some circumstances where in a boarding house situation the landlord applies for a maximised benefit and the individual benefit recipient may only see as little as $20 or $30 dollars a week in the hand. If a couple of "meals" are provided the individual is tied to the premises during the day if they want to eat. Forget special diets etc. Many of these people need them but are not entitled due to their living arrangements.
They often lose entitlement from WINZ for any other assistance because of this provision.

Those in private rental accommodation often paying market rent sometimes have less. An attempt was made to close some legal loopholes in this but has resulted in many of the "upgraded" accommodation being filled with a "better standard of client" and the former clients are now often homeless.

Last week I was told that a friend needed to get another flatmate for the lounge because the rent was so high they were left with $15.00 a week for a 2 bedroom dwelling after rent and needed to take in someone to provide food for the himself and his flatmate (all men). An exercise would be to count the people begging on Queen Street, not all of them are conmen and drug addicts. Many become that way through demoralisation.

Those who receive a state house can be left with as little as $50 a week after rent, which is what was meant to be left for them to live on after rent, (their benefit minus all the "add-ons" like accommodation supplement which goes to other support service providers like landlords and services) Often the "maximised" accommodation supplement makes up the rest of the benefit.

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