Author: Susan Edmunds

Tenants who had been paying $740 a week for a rundown Wellington flat have been awarded $3020 by the Tenancy Tribunal in compensation.

Michael Sutherland, Wara Simoes and Christopher Ding took their landlords to the tribunal over the Wallace St, Mt Cook, property.

It is owned by Diana Watson but managed by her husband, Dan Riddiford.

The tenants said their landlords had failed to repair a leaky roof, had not sealed windows to prevent draughts, had not provided insulation and had not responded to their communications, nor provided a healthy and safe residence.

The tenancy started this year, fixed for 12 months, but Sutherland had lived in the property for a year before that. The adjudicator questioned why he would renew a lease on an unsatisfactory property, but Sutherland said it was because of a housing shortage in the area.

The villa had been divided into two flats and the tenants lived upstairs.

The tribunal judgment said photos showed the house was "generally dilapidated".

"It is questionable whether it even complies with the Home Improvement Regulations 1947: for example, there is no window in the kitchen which appears to have been formed from an annex. There also appears to have been no compliant form of heating provided in the living area."

A leak in the roof had been fixed by the time the tenancy hearing occurred, but the tenants said it had not happened quickly enough, which the tribunal backed.

The property was described in the Tenancy Tribunal judgment as "dilapidated".

The adjudicator also accepted the tenants' complaint, in part, about the windows and a lack of insulation.

Riddiford said there was insulation in the ceiling and noted that insulation had been installed in the walls in 2017.

"Riddiford's evidence is that it is something that he is attending to, and he is in the process of arranging an assessment. That is something that he should have done by July 1, 2019," the tribunal said.

"But there is insufficient evidence to state categorically that the property is not compliant."

The tenants said the roof was in bad condition.

He acknowledged that he did not lodge the bond.

The tenants provided the tribunal with evidence relating to their landlord's dealings with previous tenants.

The adjudicator said "while it does not say much for the standard of landlords that the tribunal encounters, it is fair to say that Mr Riddiford's failings are not unique to him. Accordingly, I attach little weight to that evidence."

The tenants sought an end to their fixed-term agreement, which they were granted, and $3000 compensation.

The tenants said water leaked to the downstairs flat from theirs.

The adjudicator backed their request for $3000 compensation due to the property being "over-rented".

Riddiford argued he had had inquiries at $800 a week.

Despite the admission of failure to lodge bond and lack of insulation, the tribunal ruled those were acts of negligence rather than intent and so exemplary damages could not be awarded.

Note from Nighthawk.NZ:

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