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Flannel foul-up: Northland tenants ordered to pay $1000 blockage bill

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Two tenants said a face cloth was flushed down the toilet accidentally and they didn’t expect the $1068 bill. Photo / 123RF

Tenants who said they couldn’t pay a $1000 bill after accidentally flushing a flannel down the toilet have been ordered to pay damages by the Tenancy Tribunal.

Katrina Edwards and Brian Pullar will have to pay the bill they refused to for months, otherwise they may face eviction and the remaining debt for the broken septic tank caused by a washcloth.

The Ruakaka pair have been ordered to pay their letting agent the full bill of $1068 together with the tribunal filing fee of $20, in $60 instalments, on top of their weekly rental payments.

If they fail to make the payments, they will be evicted and ordered to pay the amount upfront according to the recently released Tenancy Tribunal order.

The pair were taken to the tribunal over the costs of repairs to the septic system, and termination of the tenancy after an accidental flannel flush caused a hefty repair bill for damages.

The septic pump repairs were organised by the Whang─ürei District Council in December 2021.

The repairs were necessary because Pullar had “inadvertently” flushed a face cloth down the toilet jamming the pump.

An invoice of $1068 was issued by the council for the work and parts in February this year, and the rental agency contacted the pair to pay up.

Despite the notice, Edwards and Pullar went months without addressing the bill even though the repairs had been made at the beginning of the year.

In July the rental agency issued a breach notice, seeking the amount in full.

Edwards and Pullar, however, said the damage was accidental and told the agency they couldn’t afford to foot the bill in full but could make weekly payments.

“Although the damage was certainly accidental, it is damage beyond fair wear and tear caused by an action of the tenants,” tribunal adjudicator Nicholas Blake said in the decision.

“The tenants are legally liable for the damage. The cost of repairs is proven.”

Blake said there were grounds for the termination of the tenancy under section 56 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, which the landlords originally sought, because of the unremedied breach.

“However, in light of the fact that the tenants are willing to pay the debt but simply require time to do this, my finding is that it is appropriate to make a conditional termination order,” he said.

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