Routine inspection pays off

Monday 24 August 2020

Meth contamination was just one of the breaches uncovered during a routine property inspection that led to a firm Tenancy Tribunal ruling in favour of the landlord.

By Miriam Bell

Silvana Walding moved into the Northland rental property in February 2019 – shortly after the landlord (Nfinite Solutions Limited) conducted a meth test.

While that meth test was positive it was at an extremely low level (0.03 micrograms per 100cm2 on a multi-sample composite).

However, during a routine property inspection in June, the landlord discovered that the tenant’s cousin had moved into a shed (which was intended for storage only) on the property. 

Not only had the tenant allowed her cousin to move in but the landlord had reasonable cause to understand that Walding’s partner had moved into the property.

During the inspection, the landlord also saw drug paraphernalia and arranged for meth testing.

The results of these tests showed significantly higher levels of meth [than recorded in the pre-tenancy testing], ranging from 0.04 micrograms to 6.38 micrograms.

As such, the Tenancy Tribunal found the testing evidence established that meth use had occurred inside the house during Walding’s tenancy.

Under section 40 of the Residential Tenancies Act, tenants can’t use, or permit the premises to be used, for any unlawful purpose. Breaching this is unlawful.

In this case, the Tribunal adjudicator, N. Blake, found the use of meth was an unlawful act that was committed intentionally.

“The effect on the landlord is significant and detrimental. There is a strong public interest in penalising tenants who use (or allow the premises to be used) for unlawful purposes,” Blake said.

“The breach is of such a nature that it would be inequitable to refuse the request for termination.

“The landlord’s concern about the risk of further drug activity and contamination is reasonable. Therefore, the tenancy is terminated.”

Additionally, Blake said it was appropriate to award exemplary damages of $750.

The landlord’s insurers paid for the meth testing costs, which meant the part of the claim relating to those costs was withdrawn.

Further, Walding’s tenancy agreement had specified the number of people who could live at the property and the fact that her partner and cousin had moved in meant this number was exceeded.

Adjudicator Blake said that as the tenant did not attend the hearing or provide any information about why she allowed her partner and her cousin to live on the property, they did not know whether she had a “reasonable excuse” for those decisions.

That meant this situation also constituted a breach of Walding’s duties under the RTA. The landlord was awarded a further $250 in exemplary damages.

Read more:

Rental contaminated not damaged by meth 

Comments from our readers

On 24 August 2020 at 2:54 pm cafeg said:
Read your insurance policies as well. Some insurances require regular 3 monthly inspections by a registered meth test company or they won't cover meth contamination.

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