A renter was hospitalised with high blood pressure when her landlord, a woman she once considered a friend, exacerbated her stress levels through harassment.
The tenant, who has name suppression, was the victim of family harm when a door in her Auckland rental property was broken during an incident with her partner.
The damage to the door began a feud with her landlord, who later cut off the tenant’s power and gas.
Both parties went on to make claims with the Tenancy Tribunal which was heard by adjudicator Robert Kee, who largely ruled in favour of the tenant.
“The landlord’s intention was to upset the tenant and make her leave,” Kee said in a recently released decision on the tenancy matter.
The tenant believed the woman had breached 16 of her duties as a landlord and sought exemplary damages and compensation.
While the landlord, who also has name suppression, sought rent arrears, and compensation for damages and missing items.
She also claimed the rental arrangement between her and the tenant fell outside the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
But the tribunal ruled it fell within its scope.
Kee’s decision detailed how the landlord and tenant met through their sons and when the tenant needed somewhere to live, the landlord offered up her empty rental.
The women were on “good friendly terms” when the tenant and her son moved into the property, located next door to the landlord’s home, around November 2021.
But the arrangement was informal and there was no contract.
Their relationship soured when the landlord returned home from an overseas trip and found a builder fixing a door at the rental property.
The door was destroyed during an incident of domestic violence and the tenant, embarrassed, hired the builder to fix it.
There was no formal agreement between the tenant and landlord. Photo / 123rf
This “outraged” the landlord who sent the builder away before the job was complete and an argument ensued between the women.
In September 2022, the tenant gave two weeks’ notice to move out.
A week later, police contacted her to advise her domestic violence alert alarm had been activated.
When she returned home to investigate the cause, she discovered her power and gas had been cut off.
A trespass notice was issued to the landlord and days later the tenant’s hot water was shut off after the cylinder fuse had been removed.
The tenant confronted the landlord which led to a heated argument between the pair.
The landlord later sent the tenant a text stating “Your board arrangement has been terminated and you are requested to vacate the premises with your belongings immediately.”
“This is due to your verbal physical threats and your verbal threats to do further damage to the property,” she said in the message.
The landlord claimed the tenant had raised her voice and threatened to “smash them”.
This was denied by the tenant, but she did accept she swore when asking for her hot water to be turned back on.
In considering the claims, Kee said there should have been a tenancy contract.
He said the lack of formal agreement had “blurred the lines of the relationship between the parties”.
Kee went on to order compensation of $7558 to be paid to the tenant for the landlord’s unlawful entry, interfering with services, retaliatory notice and harassment.
But she will only collect $4886 after a deduction was made for rent arrears and damage to a door, vanity and replacement lightbulbs.
Emotional harm was a significant factor in the outcome with Kee outlining that the landlords’ actions had contributed to the anguish the woman experienced during her time in rental.
“She says she was hospitalised due to high blood pressure which was affected by the impact of the events on her stress levels.
“Her mental health was fragile already and she was dealing with the mental effects of the domestic violence situation at the time also.
“I accept the tenant’s evidence of having suffered emotional harm. She suffered worry, stress, frustration, anxiety, humiliation, and insecurity.”
The landlord also claimed emotional harm, however, this was dismissed by Kee in his decision.
“At the root of the fallout in this case was the landlord’s failure to engage with the [Resedential Tenancies Act]. It is in the public interest that landlords fully accept their landlord responsibilities,” Kee said.
Hazel Osborne is an Open Justice reporter for NZME and is based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington. She joined the Open Justice team at the beginning of 2022, previously working in Whakatāne as a court and crime reporter in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you