Unlawful meth testing?

Jo asks:
(updated on Monday, January 21st 2019)

I moved into my rental property in August 2017. On the 20/9/2017, the owner did a meth test In my home, while I was on holiday. I was never given the results or any knowledge it had happened. A week after I moved out, I was informed by the rental agent that a meth test was done showing high levels of contamination and that my bond was being held and there would be court proceedings for the decontamination costs.

It was only when I requested my file did I find out the 2017 test had taken place and that showed moderate contamination. I was never informed that an additional test was happening. Can they still use this illegal test result in court? What happens when you don’t get the results and it’s moderate? The new test results are showing a reading of high contamination. Either the agent or the landlord have shared this information with my new landlord before I’ve moved in to my new rental and now I might loose my new rental. I’m really gutted! Please help.

Our Experts Answer:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords must comply with all of the applicable health, safety and building laws that apply to the premises. This includes ensuring the premises are not contaminated by methamphetamine at a level which is a health hazard.

Landlords must give the required notice before entering a property to carry out an inspection or to undertake repairs. If landlords enter without giving the required notice then this is an unlawful act. Landlords can enter without notice in certain situations, such as an emergency. Landlords wishing to test for methamphetamine during a property inspection must do so with either the tenant’s permission, or in accordance with what has been agreed in the tenancy agreement.

However, if the landlord has undertaken meth testing during a property inspection without the tenant’s permission when the potential for meth testing was not included in the tenancy agreement, this may be considered to be a breach of the tenant’s quiet enjoyment by the Tenancy Tribunal. The results may possibly be used as evidence in any proceedings if allowed by the Tribunal. Any concerns can be raised by the tenant prior to the hearing taking place, or should be raised with the Adjudicator at the hearing.

If it is unclear when the damage to the property took place and an agreement cannot be reached, or if it is unclear if the level of contamination has caused damage, then either party may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved.

You may be aware that the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman last year released a report - Methamphetamine contamination in residential properties: Exposures, risk levels, and interpretation of standards. Information on this report can be found here.

For more on the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords regarding methamphetamine, including a link to the Standards New Zealand website for testing methamphetamine contaminated properties, go to www.tenancy.govt.nz/starting-a-tenancy/renting-affected-properties/renting-a-property-affected-by-methamphetamine-p or subscribe to our e-newsletter Tenancy Matters here

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