Ex-partner’s behaviour not a tenancy breach
Tuesday 15 September 2020
Tenant responsibility for the behaviour of other people on the premises can have limits depending on the circumstances, a new Tenancy Tribunal ruling indicates.
By Miriam Bell
A South Auckland landlord, represented by their property manager, Sujata Koirala, from Oaks Property Management Limited, wanted to end a tenancy due to anti-social behaviour.
Koirala went to the Tribunal back in May on that grounds that anti-social behaviour was causing problems at the property rented by Ena Mokaraka.
At the time the Tribunal found Mokaraka’s ex-partner, who had been invited on to the property, was responsible for the disturbances but it did not terminate the tenancy.
Further disturbances – all caused by the tenant’s ex-partner- then occurred at the property on several occasions in July and August, with the neighbours reporting loud fighting, swearing, banging and threatening behaviour.
On one occasion, the neighbours recorded a physical and verbal assault on the tenant by the ex-partner. On another the ex-partner entered the neighbour’s property and banged on their door.
The neighbours did not contact the police as they were concerned about their own safety if they did.
Following the reports from the neighbours the landlord issued a breach notice to the tenant and the situation returned to the Tribunal.
However, the Tribunal adjudicator, T.Prowse, decided that it was not satisfied that the tenant had committed a breach of the tenancy.
“While tenants are responsible for the actions of other people who are on the premises with the tenant’s permission, I do not consider that when this male acted violently that he was there with the permission of the tenant,” Prowse said.
“He is clearly being violent and threatening towards the tenant and her children. She is in no position to ask him to leave, and in fact to do so would in my view, jeopardise the safety of her and her children.”
That meant that while the ex-partner was there by invitation to begin with, once he acted in a threatening and menacing way towards the tenant and her children it was implicit he no longer had her permission to be there.
For that reason, Prowse did not consider that the tenant had breached her agreement.
“Even if I had found that the tenant had committed a breach of the tenancy, there have been no further incidents since the 3 August, and I therefore consider that the tenant has complied with her obligations.”
The landlords’ application for termination of the tenancy was dismissed.
But Prowse encouraged the tenant to work with the landlord to be released from the fixed term agreement earlier, if she finds the alternative accommodation she was seeking.
While the circumstances in this case were tied up in family violence, addressing anti-social behaviour on the part of tenants and their guests generally has long been a problem for landlords.
This ruling highlights just how difficult it can be to deal with such situations, even when they impact on people in neighbouring properties.
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