An Auckland landlord has been ordered by tenancy court to pay his former tenant $7,629 following a ‘short and unfortunate’ tenancy in a cockroach-infested flat.
The tenant, whose name is deleted, signed a one-year fixed-term rental agreement for the Parnell apartment in August 2021.
However, the tenant moved out just two months later, “having found the premises faulty in many respects and clashed with the landlord who lived next door to her”, according to a recent court ruling.
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The “small apartment”, measuring just 35 square meters, was one of four carved out of a mid-1900s “traditional style” villa. The owner lived in the larger apartment and a relative of the owner lived in another.
The tenancies court noted that in addition to the ‘claustrophobic’ situation, Auckland was also locked down under Covid alert levels 3 and 4 during the former tenant’s stay there.
The Parnell apartment’s problems began early on, when property manager Kenneth Mak failed to provide the Healthy Homes Standard report or post the tenant’s deposit.
Mak confirmed that the rugs would be washed before the tenant arrived and the bathroom ceiling and window frame would be repainted due to mold.
But upon moving in, the tenant was “extremely shocked” to find that the whole apartment was “far from clean”.
According to the court, there were cobwebs on the ceilings and walls, mold in the kitchen, bedroom and living room, and the apartment was infested with cockroaches.
The tenant described several instances of harassment by the landlord, including turning off the tenant’s water and claiming that she broke the toilet in her apartment on purpose.
This situation arose when the landlord came on the principle of fixing the tenant’s toilet and tried to “coerce” her into splitting the water bill equally, the court heard.
When she refused, the landlord threatened to cut off her water supply.
The landlord then turned off the water several times, but claimed Watercare told them so, in order to fix the tenant’s toilet.
The tenant, who was “visibly upset” discussing the matter, was desperate to have her toilet fixed, as it would not flush unless she filled the cistern with water from a bucket, the court heard.
However, the toilets were never fixed.
The court heard there were ‘excessive gaps’ in the windows, meaning the owner’s cigarette smoke ‘entered the house through the bathroom window even when it was fully closed “.
The tenant said she ‘ended up eating only one meal a day due to the stress and anxiety she was feeling’ in the apartment, and also sought help from a psychologist when she lived there.
The court concluded that the tenant suffered “significant distress and lack of amenity”.
The landlord was ordered to reimburse the tenant for moving and moving costs, to reimburse 50% of the rent she had paid and to pay compensation for cleaning.
They were also ordered to pay exemplary damages for failure to provide clean premises, failure to maintain the premises and failure to allow the tenant to enjoy the apartment peacefully.