Christchurch tenant evicted after insulation query

The landlord arranged to come over - but instead served a retaliatory termination notice. Photo:...
The landlord arranged to come over - but instead served a retaliatory termination notice. Photo: Getty Images
A Christchurch renter found herself evicted after she asked her landlord if her flat was insulated.

The Tenancy Tribunal has ruled the termination notice was retaliatory - and ordered the landlord to pay $300 in damages.

Elizabeth Richardson last month sent a text to her landlord, querying whether the Riccarton property she rented was insulated and asked for a copy of the insulation statement.

Her landlord arranged to come over the next day.

But when Sara Brownie arrived, she instead handed a termination notice to the tenant.

Brownie told the Tenancy Tribunal the notice had nothing to do with Richardson's earlier message - she instead served it as she wanted member of her family to live in the house.

"Her nephew returned to New Zealand from Sweden in March 2020 and her niece has been living in unsatisfactory accommodation for the past two years," the tribunal heard.

Brownie had not served the notice earlier due to the Covid-19 restrictions on tenancy terminations, she said.

However, the adjudicator, R Armstrong, wasn't convinced.

"Even allowing for the Covid-19 restrictions, the timing of the notice immediately after the tenant's text message is striking," the tribunal's decision said.

"The landlord said that she was not concerned about the message because she was confident that she had complied with the relevant insulation regulations.

"Even if that is true, the fact that a tenant starts raising such issues can be a red flag for a landlord, indicating that the tenancy may become problematic."

Armstrong questioned why Brownie had not put the tenant on notice if she wanted to make the rental available for her niece, who had spent the past few years in "unsatisfactory" accommodation, instead of serving the notice abruptly.

"The restriction on serving a notice ended on 26 June 2020 and the notice was not served until 16 July," Armstrong said.

"If the landlord was waiting for the restriction to end, why did she not serve the notice earlier?"

Ultimately, Armstrong deemed the termination notice to be retaliatory and of no effect.

"She gave the tenant no indication that she intended to serve the notice and simply presented the notice to the tenant at a meeting she had arranged," the adjudicator found.

"That indicates to me that it is likely that the tenant's text message has caused the landlord some irritation at least."

Brownie was also pinged on her failure to pay Richardson's bond to the Bond Centre within 23 working days of receiving it.

"The landlord admits receiving $300 bond on 25 March 2019. She said that she did not pay it to the Bond Centre because she overlooked it," the decision read.

"She tried to pay it in after she received the tenant's application, but the tenant did not sign the bond form."

Taking this into account, Armstrong found the landlord's breach to be "at the lower end of the scale" and awarded the tenant $300 in exemplary damages.

All up, Brownie was ordered to pay the tenant $320.44 made up of exemplary damages and the filing fee reimbursement.

 

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