$5000+ payout for mouldy flat tenant

The flat was deemed unsuitable for "human habitation" by Forensic Building Services. Photo: Google
The flat was deemed unsuitable for "human habitation" by Forensic Building Services. Photo: Google

An Auckland woman has been awarded more than $5000 after her flat was found to be unfit to live in due to dangerous mould levels.

The woman, who the Herald agreed not to name as she is looking for another property, had just signed a fixed term lease from July 26, 2019 to August 23, 2020.

But less than a week after moving into the Mt Eden property, she noticed health effects on herself and her 16-month-old child.

"I was coughing a lot and having trouble breathing. My son was rubbing his eyes and coughing as well," she told the Herald.

"On first impressions [the flat] looked really good, but then I noticed a strong smell of mould…I had a look around up in the cupboards and they were covered in mould."

She had an air quality test done on the property on August 7 by Biodet Services, revealing "unusual" levels of penicillium and aspergillus mould along with spore clusters and other spore types, a Tenancy Tribunal decision states.

In emails exchanged with the Barfoot & Thompson property manager, she attached photos of the mould and wrote: "How are any of the attached photos suitable? It is certainly not clean, dry and 'absolutely mould free'."

The decision said the woman repeatedly emailed the landlord, Lachlan Chung, but he "wasn't willing to admit anything was wrong" with the property. She moved out on August 10.

An August 14 report from Andrew McIntyre of Forensic Building Services said neither of the property's two bedrooms should be used until the damp subfloor under the house was dealt with.

McIntyre concluded that the property was "not suitable for human habitation", the decision says.

"Anybody entering the rooms should wear appropriate personal protective equipment."

Chung claimed that since there was a concrete pad under the timber floor, insulation could not be done, the decision says.

But there was a clear gap between the timber and the ground with no concrete pad to be seen, according to photos provided by McIntyre.

Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator Bernadine Hannan found the tenant had no option but to leave the flat.

"To ignore these results would have been foolhardy and I doubt any caring mother of a small child would think differently.

Chung was ordered to pay the woman $2858.69 in compensation for the false insulation statement. Her $2200 bond was also to be refunded.

The Herald has sought comment from Chung.

Barfoot and Thompson director Kiri Barfoot said the property had met insulation requirements at the time it was leased, according to an assessment by an insulation provider.

"It is disappointing to us when issues like this arise and we take our responsibilities on behalf of both our owners and tenants seriously.

"We will be reviewing what happened here and any process or supplier improvements we can make going forward."

Barfoot & Thompson said the property would be re-inspected to confirm it complied with standards.

As of July 1 this year, all rentals must have ceiling and underfloor insulation to ensure dry and healthy homes for tenants. Over 100 complaints have been made to the Tenancy Tribunal since then.

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