Tenant ordered to pay $30k for damages to “disgusting” rental filled with cockroaches and rubbish. Video / Supplied
Cockroaches, human waste on the carpet and a shower that had been used as a toilet.
That was the sight that greeted one landlord when she walked into her rental property in Palmerston North earlier this year.
“It was emotionally traumatic and physically disgusting,” she old Open Justice.
“We all went in with masks, the whole place was crawling with cockroaches.”
The house was meant to be a nest egg, a safe investment option for retirement and something the owner said her family had poured their heart, soul and over $50,000 into doing up.
The Tenancy Tribunal found that the tenant had caused just under $30,000 worth of damage to the property since living there from 2019.
The owner, who did not want to be named, said the tenant had systematically destroyed almost everything in the house from the dishwasher to the heat pump.
She said because of Covid-19 lockdowns she was unable to inspect the property and had gone out on a limb to trust the tenant.
“The video doesn’t do it justice,” she said of the damage.
“It stunk so badly my husband spent three days just trying to clean the carpet.
“It has this underlying stench which is from faeces and urine leaking through into the underlay.”
While she’s been awarded money for the damage that had been done to the house, she said it was “bittersweet” because she would be getting it only in increments of $50 every week.
“We loved that house,” she said.
“So it’s crushing to see what was done to it.”
The owner said the toilet was completely blocked and it appeared the shower had been used as a replacement.
“I don’t even know how someone was living with that.”
The former tenant, who has previously been ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal to pay $6000 in rent arrears at a former rental, told Open Justice that the house had been damaged, but none of it was done intentionally.
She said she’d been in a car accident in January, had two autistic children and had been in isolation with Covid.
“I had offered to pay for a cleaner and I was there with four other people helping to get it cleaned,” she said.
“Unfortunately I was in a very rough place where I was incredibly sick and needed help and had been working with other services to try and get it done.”
She said she wasn’t notified of the tribunal hearing until the day before and prior to that had made some effort to pay for some of the damage done to the house.
However, she accused the owner of having lied about the total amount of damages and that she was charged for things that weren’t broken or had already been replaced.
“So I am not a bad person. I did not deliberately try and destroy their property. I take responsibility for some of the things that needed to be fixed and had tried to get the house sorted.”
However, the Tenancy Tribunal said in its decision that much of the damage could have only been caused intentionally due to how bad it was.
They went on to say it was “an understatement to say that the tenant did not leave the premises reasonably clean and tidy” and that it could only be described as “filthy” and “uninhabitable by any reasonable person”.
The Tribunal found the section and garage littered with discarded rubbish, the floors deeply ingrained with layer of filth as were the surfaces and drawers in every room of the house.
“There were drawings, scribbles and an unidentified brown substance smeared on many of the walls and curtains.”
“The house was infested with cockroaches and their bodies littered the floor, drawers and cupboards.”
The heat pump had ceased working due to an “excessive build-up of grime on the fan motor causing it to stop,” the dishwasher was broken beyond repair because “excessive amounts of food had been put in the dishwasher and blocked the pipes.
The sink mixers were broken in both the kitchen and laundry and there was widespread damage to the cabinetry in the kitchen, laundry and bathroom.
The shower tray and waste system were damaged and fouled beyond repair and it was the landlord’s belief the shower was being used as a toilet.
The Tribunal said the house should be returned to the owner in the condition she had left it in and shouldn’t be left worse-off from the arrangement.
“The property was extensively refurbished just prior to the commencement of the tenancy: it had been completely repainted, a new kitchen, bathroom, laundry and appliances had been installed, all floor coverings and fittings had been replaced.
“The property was in excellent condition. The landlord deserves to have the property restored to that condition.”
President of the Manawatu Property Investors’ Association, Pauline Beissel, said landlords didn’t have much protection when it came to tenants causing damage to their properties.
“The maximum bond landlords can take is four weeks’ rent – which in this case woudn’t cover much of the damages.”
Beissel said the sum was however extremely large, considering most of the Tenancy Tribunal decisions were to do with unpaid rent.
“There’s a lot of trust that needs to happen between a tenant and a landlord, and it’s sad to see when that trust is broken down like this,” she said.
Her advice to landlords was to vet their tenants carefully.