Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Up next
Listen live on

'You have acted too late': Tenant awarded $9k after rental complaints fell on deaf ears

Catherine Hutton,
Publish Date
Sun, 19 May 2024, 1:49pm
The Tenancy Tribunal found the landlord did not investigate the tenant's "legitimate concerns".
The Tenancy Tribunal found the landlord did not investigate the tenant's "legitimate concerns".

'You have acted too late': Tenant awarded $9k after rental complaints fell on deaf ears

Catherine Hutton,
Publish Date
Sun, 19 May 2024, 1:49pm

A landlord who falsely claimed her property met Healthy Homes standards has been ordered to pay the tenant more than $9000.

The tenant’s complaint to the Tenancy Tribunal featured a laundry list of problems that included the toilet cistern falling off the wall, unsafe electrical reticulation, a leaking shower, excessive mould because of poor ventilation, and floors that were so uneven they were dangerous.

The recently released decision is scathing of the landlord, Xin Ji, stating “in the circumstances, I can only assume the landlord’s motivation to have been to avoid the cost of having those issues properly investigated and of any resulting remediation”.

It found for the rent he was paying, the Auckland tenant was entitled to be living in premises that met Healthy Homes standards.

“They weren’t and the tenant is entitled to compensation for having to live with the issues caused by non-compliance.”

Fuse box

Among the tenant’s complaints was a fuse box that made “banging/popping sounds”, prompting an Uber Eats delivery driver to tell the tenant he saw sparks from outside the property.

“The cause of the issue was the landlord’s failure to maintain the trees and keep them trimmed away from the power line,” the decision stated.

“The tenant raised that issue with the property manager as well as notifying the property manager about the symptoms — popping sounds and sparks etc.”

Matters came to a head in September when the electricity was cut and the power company refused to reconnect it because of the trees that were too close to the power lines.

The following day the tenant arranged for an arborist to cut the trees and texted the property manager.

“You have acted too late and I’ve had to order someone to come out and deal with it as it is was (sic) a severe hazard mentioned over months and affected the whole line of flats last night by cutting power to everyone,” the tenant’s text read.

The property manager brought an electrician to reconnect the line once the trees were trimmed and the landlord reimbursed the tenant for the arborist charges.

Healthy Homes

The decision stated that before the tenancy began, a Healthy Homes assessment found the premises weren’t compliant because there was no extractor fan in the kitchen.

The landlord arranged for an additional extractor fan to be installed and an assessor subsequently issued a Healthy Homes report stating the kitchen extractor fan vented outside and the property was compliant.

But the tribunal accepted the tenant’s evidence that the compliance report was issued without the assessor reinspecting the property and “was based on the landlord’s provision of evidence showing the purchase of the extractor unit and venting kit”.

The tenant continued to raise concerns about the adequacy of the kitchen ventilation and the resulting moisture, even organising his own Healthy Homes assessment, which found the kitchen didn’t meet Healthy Homes ventilation standards.

That report also found the property didn’t meet drainage and moisture ingress standards due to the lack of maintenance causing issues with the gutters and downpipes, which were obstructed.

But the tribunal found it was unable to rule on the uneven floors or the leaking shower because of insufficient evidence.

It did compensate the tenant for the four days he was unable to use the toilet after the cistern fell from the wall, but said the delay in getting the toilet fixed was through no fault of the landlord.

“It seems to be very likely that had the tenant’s legitimate concerns, properly raised by the tenant, first informally and then through formal 14-day notices, been taken seriously and properly investigated, they would have been identified and addressed. Instead, the tenant had to continue putting up with the worry and consequences of those issues as well as the considerable frustration of having to try and get something done about them.”

The tribunal ordered Ji to pay the tenant $9023 immediately, which included $6000 for exemplary damages for breaching her obligations to ensure the premises were kept in a reasonable state of repair and complied with Healthy Homes standards.

NZME understands an appeal has been filed in the case.

Catherine Hutton is an Open Justice reporter based in Wellington. She has worked as a journalist for 20 years, including at the Waikato Times and RNZ. Most recently, she was working as a media adviser at the Ministry of Justice.

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you