A social justice movement on Vic Deals has emerged against the “dodgy practices” of Neil Patel and his property management company Challenge Rentals.
Naginbhai Neil Patel—president of the New Zealand Association of Dairies, Groceries and Small Businesses—is the landlord of many student properties in Wellington, and owns Shalimar Dairy on Willis Street.
The movement has garnered the support of hundreds online. Alleged complaints from previous tenants include unexpected increases in rent, Patel’s abuse of tenants’ power, and his failings to correctly lodge bonds with the Tenancy Tribunal.
Patel has defended himself, telling media that the creator of the original post owes him $2000. It is unclear what measures he is taking to recover the money, or whether he has lodged a claim with the Tenancy Tribunal.
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Since 2014, Challenge Rentals had been party to 16 orders in front of the Tenancy Tribunal.
Former tenant Jacob Peyton challenged the property management company after Patel raised his rent, and won due to the failure of the landlord to give a written notice of rent increase. He also told the Tribunal that Patel would refuse the tenants the use of the garage attached to the property, as he used it to siphon their electricity for his power tools.
According to Tenancy Practice Service director Scotney Williams, this is a gross abuse of authority and would be considered theft by the landlord. Williams said, “Tenants who have not been served with an appropriate notice should refuse to pay the increase and immediately apply to the Tribunal.”
VUWSA President Jonathan Gee told Salient, “The situation highlights the power imbalance that is not uncommon in tenant-landlord relationships.” He urged that “any student feeling helpless around a tenancy issue to seek the support of the VUWSA Advocacy Service for advice.”
Gee added “the situation highlights the need for changes in the way the Tenancy Tribunal operates. All too often bad landlords get off scot-free because tenants either don’t want to wait six to eight weeks to be heard by the Tribunal or fear retribution if they do go to the Tribunal.”
Patel often posts videos of what he describes as Shalimar karaoke on the dairy’s Facebook page. In one video posted in 2015, Patel films himself walking around the store, coercing shoppers into singing along to Neil Diamond with him.