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Heated Exchange

A threatening tenant has had their tenancy revoked, but has also been awarded compensation for various maintenance issues around a faulty fireplace, and gaps in windows and doors.

By: Property Investor Team

1 May 2020

The definition of “antisocial behaviour” was spelled out to a pair of tenants in an interesting case brought to the Tenancy Tribunal in Hamilton.

Taking place over the phone due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the case against Callum Witton and Samantha Monk was brought by landlords Netram and Reena Sharma on April 17. The incident occurred after Witton made a threatening remark to Netram Sharma when he was conducting repair work in the rental property.

Sharma described the event, which occurred in February this year.

He had entered the property to attend to a fireplace that was not working. After taping up a portion of the fireplace, Sharma was confronted by Witton, who demanded the fireplace be replaced.

When Sharma told him to just use the heat pump instead, Witton told him to “f**k off from here”. After being told not to swear, Witton continued by saying “f**k off from here or I will punch you”, before following Sharma and his wife out onto the street, and shouting at him loudly within earshot of neighbours.

The landlords returned home and called the Police, who recorded a complaint of threatening language or behaviour, and consequently issued a warning to Witton.

This account was contested by Witton at the hearing, who claimed that he did not threaten Sharma, but swore at him as he felt he was being dishonest.

The Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator, R Woodhouse found that Sharma was a credible witness. He said that as there was a record of the police complaint, and no dispute found in the tenant’s response to earlier emails to Sharma, his evidence was genuine.

He went on to explain that, although the New Zealand Government had made amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act around the termination of a tenancy during the Covid-19 lockdown, antisocial behaviour was still an approved reason for termination.

Woodhouse found that the behaviour met the definition of “antisocial behaviour” and ordered a termination of the tenancy, effective from April 22.

Interestingly, the tenants were also awarded compensation for two matters: having no useable fire, and gaps in the windows and door of the house, resulting in the home being cold and expensive to heat.

Even though the house had a working heat pump, the fireplace was listed on the chattels in the tenancy agreement, and was the tenant’s preferred method of heating as they had firewood on hand.

Although the landlord argued he had no obligation under tenancy law to provide both a fireplace and a heat pump, Woodhouse disagreed. He said that the fireplace was listed on the chattels list, which implied it would work, and found in favour of the tenants in this matter.

He granted them $300 in compensation for the power costs they accrued due to gaps in the door and windows, and the lack of functioning fireplace.

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