Tenancy Tribunal compensates woman forced to ‘flannel wash’ due to lack of hot water

1 min read

A woman who required the assistance of a support worker had to be washed with wet wipes and boiled water while her unit was without hot water for two weeks in the middle of winter.

Now, she has been awarded $250 after she took her grievance about the plumbing issue to the Tenancy Tribunal.

In the tribunal’s recently released decision, adjudicator Ruth Lee said that although the landlords, who have name suppression, “acted with good intentions”, they did not respond to the problem fast enough.


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The tribunal heard the tenant, who also has name suppression, had lived in one of two units at the back of the landlord’s home for several years and the landlords, now in their 80s, considered her family.

The tenant discovered she was without hot water in early July last year, notifying the landlord the same day.

But eight days passed before a plumber arrived at her unit to investigate the issue.

A geothermal engineer went on to undertake “extensive investigations” of the problem, and offered his findings to the plumber.


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The plumber returned, 15 days after the original complaint, and resolved the issue.

Lee described the lack of hot water as a “significant disruption to daily living”.

It was noted in the decision that the tenant had a support worker who would assist her with showering and other needs, but due to Covid she was without support for three days.

When her support worker was able to visit, she would boil a jug and use a bucket and cloth to help the tenant with a “flannel wash”.

When the support worker was not there, the tenant used wet wipes to wash herself.

The landlords claimed they had acted promptly and “tried their best” to get a plumber to the property as soon as possible, and because they knew the geothermal engineer, he attended faster.

They spent approximately $1400 in plumbing repairs, but because the issue was not resolved swiftly, Lee said they had breached the Residential Tenancies Act.

“While I accept that the landlords acted with good intention, I am not satisfied that they acted fast enough or with sufficient urgency to have the hot water problem diagnosed and resolved.

“I have some sympathy for their [the landlord’s] circumstances, but a landlord’s obligations remain regardless of their personal ill health.”

Lee ordered the compensation to come out of the tenant’s next weekly rental payment of $350.


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Hazel Osborne is an Open Justice reporter for NZME and is based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington. She joined the Open Justice team at the beginning of 2022, previously working in Whakatāne as a court and crime reporter in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

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