Invercargill tenant wins $11k over 'repugnant' rental

A council inspector described the Invercargill rental property's condition as 'repugnant'. Photo:...
A council inspector described the Invercargill rental property's condition as 'repugnant'. Photo: NZ Herald/File
An Invercargill tenant who endured months of mould in her rental property brought a carpet with mushrooms growing in it as "incredible" evidence for a Tenancy Tribunal hearing.

Leona McLean has been awarded just over $11,400 in exemplary damages and compensation after it was found that her landlord - William Todd & Co Ltd and IPI Properties Ltd - failed to fix a number of issues including replacing a leaking roof.

When she raised her concerns with the landlord they tried to cancel the tenancy.

The roof had suffered "major damage" after a significant weather event last August, when heavy snow and rain fell in the Invercargill area.

As a result, mould became a very serious issue and the property soon became uninhabitable.

"[The tenant] brought in a sample of the carpet to the hearing," the Tenancy Tribunal says.

"The carpet had mushrooms growing on it. The photo evidence supports this sample was taken from the house at the time. This was certainly incredible to see."

Documents released by the Tenancy Tribunal say McLean issued her landlord with a 14-day notice with a list of 21 items that needed to be fixed in her home.

The major issues, however, were the roof and the subsequent mould.

The hearing was told the landlord did not want to fix the roof and instead issued McLean with their own notice - one terminating her tenancy and informing her that she would have to leave by the end of January this year.

The tribunal adjudicator said they were concerned that the termination notice was given because the landlord did not want to put on a new roof and had been considering demolition work.

That work, however, has still not happened.

'Repugnant smell throughout the flat'

A local council representative also visited the property and, when describing the home, used the word "repugnant" more than once.

"The smell in the corridor was quite repugnant and mould was noted on the carpet. The repugnant smell permeated throughout the flat," documents say.

As part of her claim for compensation, the tenant - who is described as "house proud" and kept the property she lived in for seven years immaculate - explained how she had become physically ill when the issue started last August.

"Ms McLean gave evidence that the smell of the spores was so bad and caused her to become so ill that she needed to move out periodically and by November 23rd, she had to move out almost entirely.

"There is medical evidence to support the significant [respiratory] issues Ms McLean suffered between August 2019 and January 2020."

She had to stay at a friend's house instead and is now renting a bus.

McLean will be paid out a total of $11,471.14 made up of exemplary damages and compensation including rent reimbursement during the time she could not stay at the property.

The compensation also includes payment for items including a bed, bedding, couches, a lazy boy chair and paintings that were damaged and had to be destroyed.

The adjudicator noted that the landlord owned "a number of rental properties" and said they were therefore obliged to follow legal requirements.

Comments

The line is drawn at last.