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Tenancy Tribunal: Fearful tenant used her bed to barricade her door

A woman was so fearful of other tenants who regularly partied in a garage attached to her rented sleepout, that she used...

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A woman was so fearful of other tenants who regularly partied in a garage attached to her rented sleepout, that she used her bed to barricade the door at nights. Photo/123RF

A woman says late-night partying by other tenants and known drug users in a garage attached to her rented sleepout left her so scared she slept with her bed pushed against the door.

The woman told the Tenancy Tribunal she was not aware of any arrangement for the garage to be used by tenants in a house at the front of the property when she began renting the sleepout in September 2020.

It was only after getting a big electricity bill the following month that she realised she was paying for the power in that house as well.

She told the landlord and the bills were reduced. But, she was still paying for the other tenants’ use of power in the garage attached to her sleepout where they regularly fired up a stereo, cooking equipment, fridge, and other appliances.

The woman said that matters escalated in December 2021, when the other tenants began using the garage for late-night partying, which affected her sleep, work, and mental health.

She was too scared to call noise control because the property was in a “dangerous gang-related area”, she said.

The other tenants also regularly parked a car in the garage, blocking access to her door, she said.

She told the property manager but he failed to take any meaningful action. She said her complaint sparked name calling and intimidation from the other tenants and she wanted to move out but couldn’t find another rental.

The woman’s concerns were the basis of cross-claims she made to the tribunal after her landlord applied for rent arrears, compensation, refund of the bond, and reimbursement of the filing fee after she moved out.

The woman claimed the landlord breached his obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) by failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure none of his other tenants caused or permitted any interference with her reasonable peace, comfort, and privacy; failing to ensure others were not using her power; and failing to safeguard her quiet right of use of the premises.

In evidence, the landlord said he made it clear to the front house tenants that they could only use the garage for storage.

He was not immediately aware of the power implications until he took steps to try to remedy it. An electrician advised him it was too complicated to disconnect the power just to the room so he asked the front tenants to move their stuff out and arranged to have another shed built at the property, albeit that was not completed until after the woman moved out.

He said he offered to speak to the tenants about their partying but the woman asked him not to because she did not want backlash.

Tribunal adjudicator K Lash found both parties’ claims partially successful and awarded compensation to each.

The woman was ordered to pay 21 days of rent totalling about $740, which she failed to pay during her notice period. She was also ordered to pay about $90 for removal of rubbish by the landlord and for cleaning of the sleepout after she left.

The landlord received about $230 of the $880 bond, the rest of which was returned to the woman.

Dealing with the woman’s claims, the adjudicator said she was satisfied the woman’s right to quiet enjoyment of the property had been breached by noise and the use of her power.

But she was also satisfied the landlord had not directly or indirectly permitted the interferences and that he had not turned a blind eye to it.

However, he failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure the other tenants were not breaching the woman’s quiet enjoyment. The additional shed was built too late for the woman, who was so stressed she had shifted.

The landlord had options, which he did not use, the adjudicator said. He could have issued 14-day notices to stop the front tenants from using the room as a living space, he could have carried out further inspections to ensure they were only using the space for storage, and he could have met with the parties to resolve the matter earlier.

She awarded $400 to the woman for power usage and disturbances.

She also awarded the woman $200 for a separate issue she raised over the absence of cooking facilities in the sleepout. The adjudicator noted that prior to these proceedings, neither the woman nor landlord were aware of the legal requirement for rental properties to have cooking facilities and that those must enable both boiling and baking.

The woman’s claim about the other tenants’ car blocking her access was not supported by the evidence, the adjudicator said.

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