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Auckland landlord ordered to pay huge fine for property unfit for humans


In a landmark Tenancy Tribunal decision, a West Auckland landlord has been fined NZ$69,563 (AUD$65,125.95) for serious violations of tenancy regulations.

The ruling highlighted extensive and serious breaches at her property, a lodge located in Avondale, which included a main house converted into a living space and multiple illegal cabins.

The property, described as unfit for human habitation, featured an outdoor toilet without a door, leading to privacy concerns for tenants.

The situation was exacerbated by a curtain that offered little privacy, especially during windy conditions, which Adjudicator Rex Woodhouse found degrading, according to Domain.

To reach the toilet, tenants had to navigate a decaying deck, which was deemed hazardous.

Despite the landlord’s claims that the damage to the deck was caused by a tenant with an axe, Mr Woodhouse dismissed that explanation.

The state of the property was laid bare in photographs from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team (TCIT), showing wall holes, mouldy ceilings, and unsafe electrical fixtures.

An MBIE investigator branded it as one of the most appalling boarding houses encountered, rating it a mere 1 out of 10.

The damaged deck. (NZ Tenancy Tribunal/Stuff)

Tenants shared bleak descriptions of their living conditions, including cold showers due to a faulty coin-operated shower system and rooms barely liveable, with the help of additional clothing and cleaning efforts.

Following an inspection by MBIE, an Auckland Council inspector issued a notice for the property’s evacuation, citing it as dangerous and unsanitary.

The notice highlighted inadequate standards for the occupancy level, including insufficient fireproofing.

The existence of the cabins, constructed on leased KiwiRail land meant only for beautification, was also challenged.

The lodge has since been demolished.

Mr Woodhouse’s ruling painted a picture of tenants in a vulnerable position, with the landlord suggesting that some rooms were being used for emergency housing.

The landlord also contested claims of the property’s poor condition, attributing any damage to tenant misconduct, including alleged attempts to conceal drugs.

The landlord, who inherited the property, had plans to sell it to a developer.

Despite accusations of neglect towards the property’s maintenance, she refuted such claims.

The tribunal also addressed procedural concerns, ruling that TCIT’s unannounced inspection was permissible and justified.

This is not the first time the property has come under scrutiny; a 2021 tribunal application also found it dilapidated and poorly maintained, with a $21,214 penalty imposed for issues including pest infestations.

Mr Woodhouse’s recent verdict includes a restraining order against the landlord to prevent further breaches, with future violations to be escalated to the District Court.

The fine comprises NZ$18,500 in exemplary damages and a NZ$48,171 rent refund to the tenants, who can report grievances to TCIT via the tenancy services website.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.

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