Establishing Meth Damage
A new Tenancy Tribunal ruling illustrates just how complex it can be to establish if a rental property has been contaminated with meth and what penalties should be awarded for damage
1 March 2020
An Auckland property management company managed to succeed in only part of its claim against a pair of tenants who smoked meth in their rental property, contaminating it in the process.
James Pilcher and Elizabeth Foster rented the Royal Oak house from May 2018 until August 2019. Prior to the start of their tenancy, the landlord had the property meth tested and the results were clear. At the end of the tenancy, the landlord again tested the property and this time there was evidence of meth use throughout.
However, the detailed test showed that most areas tested were well below 15xg /100cm2. The exception was the hallway where the tested samples were 23μg /100cm2 and 16.7μg /100cm2.
On professional advice, the property was fully decontaminated. This prompted Auckland Property Management Solutions to go to the Tenancy Tribunal for the decontamination costs, the replacement cost of chattels, lost rent and the cost of the test reports.
When it comes to meth contamination, the Tribunal now adheres to the 15μg /100cm level recommended in the 2018 Gluckman report.
The landlord alleged the full decontamination cost and other costs could be claimed because two areas exceeded the 15μg /100cm2 level and that meant the premises was damaged.
The Tribunal took a different view because it was only the two hallway readings that were higher than 15μg /100cm2 and they did not exceed the 30μg /100cm2 indicative of manufacture.
“So, while the hallway can properly be considered damaged by the tenant’s intentional acts, the rest of the premises were not damaged and did not require remediation.”
That meant the landlord had no claim against the tenant for the remediation and other costs, although the adjudicator did award the landlord $500 compensation for damage to the hallway.
Additionally, the landlord was awarded costs associated with the initial post-tenancy test and limited compensation for loss of rent due to the meth contamination.
However, the Tribunal did find that the use of meth was an unlawful act and an unlawful use of the property, which meant it was a breach of the tenant’s responsibilities under the Residential
Tenancies Act. For this reason, the landlord was awarded exemplary damages of $600. In total, the Tribunal ordered the tenants pay $3,726 to the landlord.