A family who rented a methamphetamine-contaminated Tuakau property have won $7525 from their landlord, getting a rent refund and reimbursement for the cost of dumping their ruined belongings.
Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator Mark Benvie ruled the landlord must repay his tenants $4025 for disposal of contaminated belongings after testing found six of nine items of their furniture were contaminated.
A further $3500 rent must be refunded to the family, who were in the place only from August 8 to November last year.
"The former tenants ... gave evidence as to the awful consequences that living in a house contaminated with methamphetamine had for them and their family," the adjudicator said.
"This included evidence as to ongoing physical and mental health conditions, contamination of their belongings (which must be disposed of), significant financial costs and stress and upset."
Evidence was presented about neighbours warning of prior drug activity at the premises and of the police saying the address was known to them, the decision said.
But the landlord and his agents said they did not know the premises were contaminated. The landlord had bought the property just before the tenancy commenced and had not dealt with the former tenants.
A smell "like alcohol" in the premises had not been noticed and did not raise a red flag about possible drug contamination, the adjudicator was told. This was the first time the property manager had encountered meth contamination in his 12 years on the job, he said.
"I accept that the landlord and his agents had no actual knowledge of the contamination," the adjudicator ruled.
Scotney Williams, a director of the Tenancy Practice Service based in Grey Lynn, said the decision demonstrated the need for landlords and residential property buyers to consider getting meth tests before renting or selling.
Chris Russell, a property manager of Harper Properties, said the case should act as a warning.
"Given that P testing is becoming more commonplace, plus the regulations around smoke alarms and insulation, I would predict that more investors and landlords engage with property managers to take over the workload," Mr Russell said.
Mr Benvie issued a general warning to all landlords in his ruling: "The scourge of methamphetamine manufacture and use that is affecting many lives and communities throughout New Zealand has been well publicised by the media throughout 2015 and 2016. Any landlord who, in 2015 or 2016, rents out his or her premises without having it tested for methamphetamine contamination at the commencement of the tenancy is taking on a large risk in a number of respects."