After a child living in their substandard rental property was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease, a couple was ordered to pay nearly $40,000 in damages.
Landlords Anne and Roger Stocker were found to have breached the Residential Tenancies Act, after action by MBIE’s Tenancy Compliance and Investigations team, found their Christchurch rental property was not in a liveable condition.
The couple shifted to Australia without appointing a local agent to oversee the property which did not comply with insulation or smoke alarm requirements.
MBIE tenancy compliance and investigations national manager Steve Watson said it was appalling that people chose to rent such properties out and exploit others in such a way.
He said the harm caused by the poor condition of the property showed deliberate and wilful non-compliance.
“It had multiple leaks and black mould growing across the property, the condition of the house was so bad that it was completely non-weathertight and there were issues with the electricity and it was just a really substandard property.”
Some of the rooms were unliveable and some of the tenants’ possessions had to be destroyed due to mould and dampness.
He said there was no justification for their poor behaviour as landlords, which amounted to serious exploitation of the vulnerable Pasifika family.
The family had been living in the house for about two years and made repeated attempts to contact the Stockers, who did nothing to address the issues with the property.
“It was only through the intervention of a number of agencies that saw some action taken.”
Christchurch City Council also investigated the case after being notified by the Canterbury District Health Board when the child was admitted to hospital.
A senior environmental officer found the property was so mouldy and damp it was uninhabitable.
Tenants Protection Association manager Penny Arthur said the case was not an isolated event and she heard from tenants every day who experienced dampness and moisture in their homes.
“Unfortunately the Healthy Homes standard has meant that landlords are currently saying well I don’t have to comply with that yet, so I don’t have to maintain the property at the moment but that is not correct at all, the standards of maintenance and repairs is still required but unfortunately we are finding it is getting deferred even more.”
Arthur said in Christchurch, a number of properties were rented out in an “as is, where is” condition following the earthquakes, and they had further deteriorated over the last 10 years.
“They are just not ever going to be repaired.”
While compensation had been awarded by the Tenancy Tribunal in similar cases, Arthur said the amount of $38,626.12 was one of the largest payouts she had seen.