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Tenancy Tribunal throws out tenant’s unfounded claims of racism

Vinodh (Neil) Singh made an unsuccessful claim to the Tenancy Tribunal that his landlord made racist comments, including that Indian food stinks....

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Vinodh (Neil) Singh made an unsuccessful claim to the Tenancy Tribunal that his landlord made racist comments, including that Indian food stinks. Photo / 123rf

A man of Indian ethnicity who claims to be suffering mental anguish due to alleged racist remarks by his landlord, including that “Indian food stinks”, says he now questions his identity and is in need of therapy.

But the landlord, Heather Robertson, denied making any such comments and another of her tenants has vouched for her good character.

The Tenancy Tribunal also rejected Vinodh (Neil) Singh’s allegations, which he made in response to Robertson’s application for compensation after he intentionally blocked her efforts to re-rent the property.

Singh had given 21 days’ notice to terminate the tenancy, despite the legal requirement being 28 days, and then denied Robertson’s agent access to the Mount Wellington premises to show prospective tenants.

Singh said he didn’t want to deal with the appointed agency, and he believed the police or the tribunal should have been involved to mediate the viewing times.

Robertson took her case to the tribunal, claiming rent arrears, water rates and exemplary damages for failing to allow access to the property.

At the recent hearing, the tribunal was provided with a text message sent by Singh in which he made clear he was not willing to co-operate.

He hadn’t liked the “tone” of the agent who contacted him about the viewings and said he had the right to only associate with individuals of his choosing.

The tribunal found Singh’s explanation as to why he denied the agent access to be “totally without foundation”.

Robertson was awarded $400 for damages, $289.20 for rent arrears and $16.13 for water rates.

The tribunal then had to consider Singh’s application for compensation for alleged breaches of his quiet enjoyment, which he says amounted to harassment and included alleged discrimination based on his ethnicity.

He sought a full refund of his rent and any additional compensation the tribunal would award him.

The tribunal said his application was misconceived and by his own admission was made in response to Robertson’s application.

He alleged she had made racial comments when they first met such as “you are not an Indian”, “Indian food stinks” and “because you are not an Indian, I am giving the house to you”.

But Singh is, in fact, of Indian ethnicity.

As a result of the alleged comments, he said he felt harassed and was limited in his enjoyment of the tenancy because he felt he could not eat foods that might cause a smell.

Singh sought an order from the tribunal that he be provided with counselling, claiming to have suffered such mental anguish that he has had to “question his identity and ethnicity”.

But Robertson denied making any such comments.

She said she has many tenants of other ethnicities and it was of no concern to her where tenants originated from.

In support of her position, she produced a letter of reference from another of her tenants vouching for her good character.

The tribunal ruled Singh’s allegations of racially insensitive comments were unproven and it further did not accept Singh has been “thrown into mental turmoil” or that he needed counselling for what he claimed had happened.

His application was dismissed.

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