Stephen Rutherford with his family Ethan, 12, Riley, 9, Ashton, 13 and wife Lynley are hunting for a secure home. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Rental landscape leaves tenants ‘powerless’


The Rutherford family are on a deadline. Just before Christmas their landlord told them that they needed the family of six out of the Atawhai house that was supposed to be a home for 5-10 years.

Now they are on tenterhooks waiting to see if any of the myriad rental applications will come through before they have to move out on March 6.

“It’s a huge stress on the kids not knowing if we will have a place and being uprooted all the time,” says mum Lynley.

Her and husband Stephen have been renters all their married life, but it is only recently that they have faced firsthand the insecurity that can come with that.

Eighteen months ago, they were forced into temporary accommodation after another landlord said they needed them out. They only got a few weeks to find a place.

“It’s not enough time,” says Stephen, who works for Electronic Navigation at Port Nelson.

“Then, this time we were told just before Christmas when there are no listings, and everyone is away.”

The Rutherford family struggle is not unique. Data from Trade Me shows that the median rent in Nelson rose 12 per cent on last year, from $415 to a record $465 per week in December.

Demand in Nelson is also high after the number of enquiries jumped 26 per cent year-on-year.

Amid that landscape, the family is trying to find a place that will suit their three sons and daughter.

She says the process of getting a home is getting harder with property managers doing many more viewings than ever before.

They say that Nelson doesn’t seem to have competition for price, but the prices are high.

For a four-bedroom place they say you would struggle to find anything under $500.

The family have lived in three houses in the last five years.

When they went into temporary accommodation, they thought they might be able to save some money, but all the extra cash went on a storage unit for their belongings.

“The system is set up very much in favour of landlords,” says Stephen. “You feel powerless.”