More signs of tenants uncovered in the debris of damaged building

As the facade of 61 Molesworth St is removed, the destruction reveals a little more of the story behind its tinted windows.

Household belongings can now be seen on the fourth, fifth, and eighth floors after heavy machinery started demolition of the nine-storey Wellington building on Monday morning.

The building was meant to be a vacant office block not zoned for residential tenants.

But, since the earthquake, it has become clear at least one family was living there, paying rent to the building's owner, Primeproperty Group.

Building on Wellington's Molesworth St being torn down
Owner of condemned building on Molesworth St accepts fault over tenants
MBIE fires warning shot over illegal residents in commercial buildings

Ernest Mape, his wife and two teenage children came forward as living on the first floor, and Mape also claimed there were other tenants in there too.

Primeproperty has accepted it should not have allowed the Mapes to live there, but had been unwilling to confirm whether there were other tenants, or how many.

The Mapes and his family have been wondering if they will ever be reunited with their possessions since being locked out of the building when cordons were put in place the day after the earthquake.

"We have nothing," Ernest Mape said. "We have only our clothes that we were wearing and the stuff that we could carry. All our life, our belongings are still in our unit on the first level."

Wellington City Council had previously advised there was little chance any belongings could be retrieved. However, a council spokesman said on Wednesday evening it "would try without entering the building".

"Our priority is to bring the building down safely. However, the equipment can be used to gently nudge things free from the building."

The council confirmed residential tenants were not allowed in the building, and has signalled it intends to take the matter up with the building's owner.

"We reserve the right to take action, but we have no need to rush anything," the spokesman said.

"The evidence is there. However, in the meantime, our priority is the safety of the building."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has already begun an investigation into the actions of Primeproperty.

Compliance and investigation national manager Steve Watson said the company may have breached the Residential Tenancies Act.

"Renting out unconsented buildings, or buildings not consented for residential purposes, to people to live in, to use as their homes, raises serious health and safety concerns and is a breach of landlords' responsibilities." 

Antoinette Muollo-Aharoni, wife of Primeproperty chief executive Eyal Aharoni, said he was on flight on Thursday night and would not be able to answer questions.

 - Stuff