Threat to assault ends problem tenancy

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Terminating the tenancy of badly behaving tenants can be a dangerous and difficult business as demonstrated by a recent Tenancy Tribunal case.

By Miriam Bell

Tauranga tenant Jillian White rented a unit in a complex owned and operated by the Tauranga Community Housing Trust.

Her tenancy commenced in late 2017 and was characterised by a string of complaints from other tenants and neighbours about the anti-social and disruptive behaviour of White and her family members.

White was eventually issued with a 90-day notice in early December 2019, where upon the abusive and threatening behaviour directed at the Trust and its general manager was stepped up.

This prompted the Trust to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a more immediate termination of the tenancy.

The Tribunal did elect to terminate the tenancy - however, the case highlights just how difficult it can be to deal with problem tenants.

In presenting the Trust’s case the Trust’s tenancy manager, Patrick Gonthier, provided evidence showing that, since the start of White’s tenancy, six 14-day notices had been issued to White for interference with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of other tenants and neighbours.

He said at least five neighbours had reported feeling unsafe and intimidated by the tenant and their visitors. One neighbour provided a statement describing multiple disturbances, intimidating behaviour and feeling afraid.

Further, police confirmed at least 18 registered events at the premises involving assaults, violence and/or family harm.

After the 90-day notice was issued in early December, the intimidating behaviour continued and several abusive phone calls were made to the general manager of the complex by the tenant.

A transcript of one of the messages left was provided. In it the tenant said: “… never mind, I’ll see you soon and I will be coming in personally with a gun.”

The Trust took the message left by the tenant as a serious threat and the manager immediately called 111 and closed the office for safety reasons. Police attended and issued a warning to the tenant.

The Tribunal said that allegations of threats to assault a landlord are a serious matter but it was satisfied that the landlord had proved a threat to assault on the balance of probabilities.

Tribunal adjudicator A Macpherson said that, under section 55(1)(c) of the Residential Tenancies Act, a tenancy can be terminated if the tenant has assaulted or threatened to assault the landlord, an agent of the landlord, or a neighbour of the premises.

Macpherson also found that White had breached her obligations by interfering with the quiet enjoyment of her neighbours on multiple occasions.

“The behaviour has continued despite repeated warnings and visits from the tenancy manager and support workers. The disruptive behaviour has recently escalated and cannot continue. It would be inequitable to refuse to terminate the tenancy in these circumstances.”

As such, Macpherson terminated the tenancy and White was ordered to pay the Trust $1,231.65 (for utilities arrears and to refund the bond) immediately.

Comments from our readers

On 21 January 2020 at 6:48 pm Furneaux said:
Why are the tenants not fine for noise and anti behaviour? Is there a law for that? Noise control only deals with excessive noise,not continual noise. Not alot of help out there to get this sorted before it gets ugly.
On 22 January 2020 at 5:25 pm NapierInvestor said:
Didn't Olly Newland reckon turning up with an envelope of cash was the best way to get bad tenants out? That approach might be harder for housing trusts though

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