One wall in the living room was a metal garage door. Photo/Google
A couple living in a moldy, slug-riddled garage received $38,000 from its landlord who shouldn’t have rented the space in the first place.
The couple responded to an advert for a self-contained two-bedroom apartment with its own bathroom and kitchen on Auckland’s North Shore.
However, the converted garage did not have consent to be rented out as a separate household unit and suffered from certain “major deficiencies”, the former tenants told the Tenancy Court in a recently released decision.
A still operational metal garage door made up an entire living room wall. It was not insulated and had to be stuffed with material to limit drafts.
The garage floor was concrete with carpet glued directly to it, and the premises suffered from high humidity and humidity which caused mold and a “predominance of slugs” according to the ruling.
“It seems to me more likely than not that the moisture and humidity levels (tenants provided evidence of 70% humidity levels) were contributed by the inhabited spaces, cooked, steamed from the kitchen and shower etc. were never designed or intended to cope with these uses,” the Tribunal said.
“Draughts and lack of insulation have contributed to the cold and damp problems experienced by tenants.”
The tenants have lived in the property for almost four years and the landlord loaned them a dehumidifier, provided them with the use of a hydrometer and installed a bathroom extractor fan.
“Nevertheless, I believe that by seeking to derive rental income from the letting of space which was not intended, approved or suitable for that purpose, and the tenants, therefore having to deal with the inadequacies of that space , an exemplary damages award is appropriate.”
The court found that the owner, Sara Hong, had failed in her health and safety obligations at the property and had committed an illegal act.
Hong told the court that she had poor command of English and was unaware of what she was signing when she signed the rental contracts.
However, the ruling states that a landlord must have been aware they were entering into a formal agreement and had a responsibility to make an effort to understand exactly what they were signing.
“The landlord may not have been aware of her obligations as a landlord under the Residential Tenancies Act, but that’s no reason why she shouldn’t be required to comply with these important legal obligations,” the decision reads.
“The information provided by the owner is simply misleading. If, as the owner says, she was not really aware of the content of the agreement, she should not have made these representations without verifying the effect .”
Among the repairs Hong was ordered to pay her former tenants were a $750 fine for failing to provide insulation, a $500 fine for failing to provide any form of heating, and $30,000 paid rent amounting to 30% of the base rent of $500 per week. paid over a total of four years.
Along with their house being moldy, full of slugs and cold, tenants said the landlord had become a constant presence in the garden just outside their living space.
They understood from the agreement that they had exclusive use of this garden area which the owner then “took away” using it herself.
They say his presence was unsettling and disturbing and fundamentally undermined their peace, comfort and privacy in living in the premises.
However, the Tribunal did not find that the landlord harassed the tenants as they claimed.