'Out of depth' landlord told she can't use garden, laundry or mailbox

The landlord was told to remove her garden furniture because her tenants' had sole rights to the...
The landlord was told to remove her garden furniture because her tenants' had sole rights to the use of her backyard. Photo / Carolyn Robertson
A landlord living in a sleepout behind her main rented house has been told to remove her garden furniture as she has no right to share the garden, laundry or mailbox with her tenants.

Landlord Suzanne Mitchell was found to be "out of her depth" as a landlord because nowhere in the tenancy agreement had she made it clear that some of the facilities were to be shared, according to a Tenancy Tribunal decision released this week.

The tenants, who have name suppression, told the tribunal they only learnt that Mitchell intended to share the laundry and garden with them after they moved in.

The tenants said she was frequently using the laundry and spending time in an area of the garden close to their house, which they felt breached their privacy.

On several occasions, Mitchell removed the tenants' belongings from the laundry, which eventually resulted in an altercation between the two parties.

The tribunal was also provided with photos that showed the landlord was frequently in the garden area near the windows of the tenants' house.

Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator Jane Wilson upheld all the tenants' complaints and found there was nothing in the tenancy agreement stating that the tenants did not have sole use of any of the facilities.

Wilson believed Mitchell's behaviour to have breached the reasonable peace, comfort and privacy of the tenant in their use of the premises in circumstances which amount to harassment.

She was also found to have entered the property unlawfully when she went inside to speak with tradespeople carrying out work on the property and it was dirty and not in a reasonable state of repair when they moved in.

"I consider the behaviour of the landlord raises a presumption that she acted intentionally in committing the unlawful acts, in particular when interfering with the reasonable peace, comfort and privacy of the tenant in their use of the premises and entering the premises without notice or consent," Wilson said.

The judge acknowledged the numerous obligations and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act had changed significantly in the past six years and it was up to the landlord to ensure they had a good knowledge of it.

"This appears to be a situation where the landlord is effectively 'out of her depth'. This is evidenced by the use of a tenancy agreement which contains a significant number of provisions which do not relate to this tenancy but omits details which do."

Mitchell was ordered not to use the garden, laundry or mailbox and to remove her garden furniture from the back garden as of immediate effect.

The Tenancy Tribunal ordered Mitchell pay the tenants $5060.44 in compensation and exemplary damages.

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