Landlord tried to evict disabled tenant over cleanliness

The Tenancy Tribunal has sided with a renter after their landlord attempted to evict them. Photo:...
The Tenancy Tribunal has sided with a renter after their landlord attempted to evict them. Photo: Getty Images
A landlord has failed in their attempt to evict a cognitively impaired car crash victim for failing to keep his rented house clean.

The social housing provider, which specialises in providing accommodation for those with mental health and addiction issues, hoped to kick the man out despite not having anywhere else for him to live.

The provider took the man to the Tenancy Tribunal earlier this year hoping to have him evicted after he failed multiple inspections and ignored orders to clean the house.

The tenant, who had lived in the two-bedroom unit in Waikato since 2018 without incident, was involved in a car accident in 2021 and suffered a serious head injury.

That injury caused a decline in his cognitive functioning, which now makes it difficult for him to process and retain content such as the warning notices issued to him by the landlord.

Both the tenant and landlord were granted name suppression by tribunal adjudicator Glenn Barnett, who dismissed the housing provider’s application to evict their long-term tenant.

According to that ruling, the landlord inspected the property seven times between July 2023 and January 2024. After each inspection, they issued a breach notice that gave the tenant two weeks to bring the property back to a clean and tidy state.

The tenant, who had ACC-funded cleaning assistance because of his car accident, did not view the property as unclean and declined that assistance.

Barnett said prior to the first breach notice in July 2023 - two years after the tenant’s accident - there had been no evidence of any cleanliness issues with the property.

"Given the absence of any evidence of breaches leading up to the accident, and after hearing from the tenant and considering the material produced, it is more likely than not that the head injury has been a contributing factor," Barnett said.

"In my opinion, the state of uncleanliness must reach a stage where, objectively assessed, it is resulting in lasting damage to the landlord or poses a demonstrable risk to the health and safety of the tenant or others, such as other tenants of the landlord or nearby neighbours."

Barnett said the property had not yet reached that state and evicting the tenant on that basis would be a disproportionate response.

At an inspection in 2023, the landlord found two additional occupants in the property and ordered they leave within two weeks.

However, the tenant refused to kick them out and told the tribunal they were a homeless mother and young child whom he felt sorry for and let stay with him temporarily.

They stayed roughly six weeks before a couple and another man moved in with the tenant, opting to sleep in the lounge.

The tenant again told the tribunal they had allowed these people to stay out of sympathy but also admitted to feeling bullied and that they’d had difficulty saying no due to their cognitive impairment.

However, there was no actual provision in his tenancy agreement forbidding him from having other people occupy the house and he hadn’t charged any of them rent.

Barnett noted the tenant was clearly vulnerable to exploitation, but ultimately the tenancy agreement was vague about the number of occupants who could live at the address.

The landlord maintained the situation was untenable but was unable to offer any alternative accommodation. They acknowledged there was a housing shortage "given the current social housing climate".

They said evicting the man was the only remaining option to them.

As a potential alternative, they offered to vary the tenancy agreement to state that only he was allowed to live at the property.

Barnett encouraged the tenant to work with the landlord to maintain his accommodation "which on the present course is clearly at risk" before dismissing the landlord’s application.

 - Jeremy Wilkinson, Open Justice reporter