An Auckland landlord leased his garage to new immigrants for $270 a week and harassed and intimidated them, according to the Tenancy Tribunal.
Landlord Eran Arzi has been ordered by the tribunal to pay damages of $3400 to the applicants for harassment, unlawful entry, failure to lodge a bond, and using the converted garage as an unconsented dwelling.
Adjudicator Brian Stephenson said Arzi sublet the garage to Sue Liow, Gerald Tan and their child in 2015, a month after they arrived in New Zealand.
Stephenson said Arzi included "illegal and grossly intimidatory clauses" in the tenancy agreement, and these were "calculated to create a climate of fear".
"Mr Arzi pursued a course of conduct calculated to harass his tenants into complying with his wishes," Stephenson found.
The Tribunal ruling found Arzi called the garage "the studio" throughout the tenant agreement, and claimed Liow and Tan were his flatmates. He rented it out despite it not being consented as a separate dwelling.
Liow said Arzi entered the garage without notice, and sent text messages to her "constantly" wanting access to carry out work.
Liow said Arzi would yell at her either on the phone or face-to-face. Arzi said entering the premises at will was "his right as landlord".
Stephenson ruled against Arzi on a number of factors.
"Aggravating factors included the threatening terms of the tenancy agreement, Mr Arzi's whimsical interpretation of his rights, and the frequency and the manner in which Mr Arzi pestered the tenant," Stephenson said.
"He brought a combative approach to problem-solving.
"The frequency of his interruptions to their quiet enjoyment of the premises, and of his interference with their reasonable peace, comfort and privacy in the use of the premises constituted harassment and amounted to an unlawful act."
Stephenson said Arzi intentionally did not lodge the bond of $1080 with the Bond Centre, as the law requires.
Arzi is a superannuitant, and after his own landlord terminated another tenancy, resorted to sleeping in his car.
Liow also claimed a refund of the entire amount the tenants paid for rent, approximately $13,000, as well as the $1900 she paid for power and water, because the garage was not a legal dwelling.
But Stephenson declined to award a refund of the rent, stating "the law relating to tenancy of unconsented buildings is in considerable disarray".
"I think it is best to take a precautionary approach and await clarification on appeal."