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Meth Testing Pays Off

The issue of meth contamination of rental properties has flown under the radar of late, but a recent Tenancy Tribunal ruling proves it is something landlords need to stay on top of.

By: Property Investor Team

1 July 2020

Meth testing before and after a tenancy has paid off for a pair of landlords who have been awarded nearly $30,000 in damages, most of which was due to significant meth contamination.

Michael Faithful and Jill Mottram rented their family home in Waiuku, south of Auckland, to Glen Sands in January 2018. Prior to the start of the tenancy, the property was tested for meth and none was detected.

In June 2019, property manager Barfoot & Thompson served Sands with a 42-day notice to terminate the tenancy as the landlords wanted to move back into the house. A meth test was conducted as part of the final inspection and it returned a reading of 7.03ug/100cm2 based on composite testing of 10 samples.

This gave a theoretical maximum reading of 70.33ug/100cm2. A further detailed site assessment report was conducted and it found the property was contaminated and should not be occupied. Decontamination took place in August and a post decontamination report found it was likely the property had been used for manufacturing.

Initially, the landlords and Sands came to an out-of-court settlement agreement. However, it did not work out and became contentious in itself. This prompted the landlords to take their case to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Sands denied he was responsible for the meth contamination, submitting that it must have occurred while he was away on business and allowed other people to stay at the property. He also claimed that he was the victim of “unnecessary decontamination”.

However, the Tribunal found the evidence supported the conclusion that meth was used and manufactured at the property during the tenancy and by persons in the property with Sands’ permission. Accordingly, Sands was found liable for the cost of the meth testing and decontamination (which was considered appropriately done).

The Tribunal ordered that Sands pay his former landlords $29,644 immediately. That sum was largely made up of meth-related costs. But it also included exemplary damages for tampering with three smoke alarms, which the Tribunal considered a serious breach of tenancy law.

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