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Abandonment Results In Exemplary Damages

Tenants who stopped the landlords entering their property before abandoning it without leaving a forwarding address now owe $6,695.33, including $1,200 in exemplary damages.

By: NZ PROPERTY INVESTOR

1 October 2021

Sarah Jane Logan Roberts and Samuel Thomas O’Neill had a fixed term tenancy starting in October last year and ending on May 23 this year.

The landlords, who have name suppression, found the premises abandoned on March 30, and have not heard from the tenants at all. They applied to the Tenancy Tribunal for rent arrears, exemplary damages and compensation.

On March 27, the landlords wrote to the tenants, giving the required 48 hours’ notice that they wanted to replace the smoke alarms and undertake some maintenance to the exterior of the house.

The tribunal heard the tenants replied the same day, requesting the landlords provide evidence the smoke alarms required updating, saying they were working “fine” and the request was simply an opportunity to “spy” on them. They also claimed they were dealing with the passing of a close friend.

Refusing entry to the property, the tenants said if the landlords turned up they would call the police. The landlords told the tribunal the likely reason they were refused entry was because the tenants were in the process of packing up to abandon the premises.

The tenants have not been heard from again and the tribunal ordered $500 in exemplary damages for refusing the landlords entry and $200 in exemplary damages for not notifying the landlords of their change of address. Further exemplary damages of $500 were awarded to the landlord for abandonment of the property.

During their tenancy Roberts and O’Neill offered to water the gardens over summer and carry out some garden work for a $10 a week rent reduction. None of the work was done and the tribunal ordered 17 weeks of rent reduction – $170 – to be paid back by the tenants.

In addition they owed $6,250 in rent arrears and have also been ordered to pay $1,013 for cleaning, lawnmowing and key and remote control replacement.

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