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Damaging With Intent

Adjudicator awarded a landlord a significant payout after tenants were found to have caused intentional damage to a property.

By: Property Investor Team

28 February 2021

The definition of “intentional damage” is notoriously slippery. But adjudicator J Robertshawe found in the favour of a landlord who claimed that her tenants had caused damage to the property beyond the usual “wear and tear”.

Mary Fisher rented out the property in Brooklyn, Wellington to Vineet Mewara, Ajay Saini, Rajbir Singh,

Up Front Tenancy

Gurpreet Singh, Karampreet Singh and Saajan Narula in March 2018. However, she ended the tenancy on January 31, 2020 through a 90-day notice after she became concerned about rent arrears, the number of people living at the property, and the state of the property when she did her inspections.

After the tenancy ended, Fisher applied for rent arrears, substantial compensation for cleaning costs and damages, exemplary damages, refund of the bond, and reimbursement of the filing fee.

The tenants defended the claim on the basis that they had left the property reasonably clean, had not damaged the property beyond fair wear and tear, and had not breached the Residential

Tenancies Act 1986 in a manner which justified exemplary damages. Fisher provided photographic evidence that the house wasn’t left “reasonably clean and tidy”, for which damages were awarded.

She also claimed that some of the damage in the property went well beyond “wear and tear”. These included burns on the deck and on the living room carpet, which were sufficiently extensive that the adjudicator found that the tenants would have been certain that their actions would cause damage.

Also, a bedroom door had a new lock added without the landlord’s consent, which had been damaged from being forcibly opened.

Fisher sought for the cost of replacing approximately 45m2 of carpet damaged by numerous burn marks in the living area, but this amount was not awarded as there was no current invoice and the property was re-rented without the carpet being replaced.

Fisher was awarded $9,149.34, out of which $2,640 was taken as bond. The final amount payable by the tenants was $6,509.34, which included rent arrears, cleaning and rubbish removal, compensation for damaged doors, damaged decking, carpet damage, damaged vanity, mirror and curtain, and missing lightbulbs.

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