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Cautionary Tale

A multifaceted Tenancy Tribunal ruling has seen a tenant ordered to pay over $20,000 to their landlord.


5 April 2022

A problematic tenancy in East Auckland has culminated in a massive payout order for tenants who broke almost every rule in the book. Hiep Tuan Luu and Pham Thuy Thi were ordered to pay Barfoot and Thompson $20,022 for unpaid rent, repairs, glass call out fee, boarding up a house, and water charges after the property they rented was sublet without consent and was consequently damaged in a fire caused by drug cultivation.

The tenants entered into an agreement for a fixed-term tenancy from July 19 to July 20 last year. According to Luu (who attended the hearings alone) Thi backed out of the agreement, leaving him with a tenancy he couldn’t afford.

He subsequently sublet the property, passing the money on to Barfoot and Thompson, which was explicitly against the rules of the rental agreement. On November 30, 2019, there was a fire in the property. Extensive damage was caused to the roof, a bedroom, a bathroom and the hallway. It transpired that the fire was caused by a poorly wired electrical diversion to supply a cannabis growing operation.

After the fire, the house had to be boarded up and it transpired that a window had also been broken at some stage, both of these things required remedial work, which the landlord claimed back from the tenant.

Luu argued that he sublet the property to help a friend, who had unknowingly put him in this situation and that he did not know cannabis was being grown at the property. Adjudicator M Edison accepted this, but found that the tenant was liable for rent from the time of the fire (when the sublet ended and the payments stopped) until the expiry of July 6, 2020.

Edison also found that the tenant was responsible for the actions of those under the sublease, and therefore the boarding up of the house after the fire (which occurred during the period of the sublease) and the costs for the broken window also needed to be paid. Edison concluded: “The landlord was deprived of that opportunity and was not asked for permission for any change in occupation. It was Mr Luu’s decision to allow individuals, unknown to the landlord, to reside at the property.

They might not have had an opportunity to use the premises for illegal activities, and the property might not have been significantly damaged if Mr Luu had complied with his obligations as a tenant.”

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