A Foxton woman who was sleeping on the streets after being trespassed from her own home has welcomed a Tenancy Tribunal decision which classed a man living there as her boarder.
The decision meant police could act on a separate trespass order forcing 56-year-old Martin Geoffrey Foote to leave her Huntly Street home last week. He had the afternoon to pack his bags and be gone by 9pm.
Lynn Parlane-Powell, 73, a former chess champion, had slept in her car near public toilets in Levin for nearly a month, showering at the town pool each day.
With Foote gone she spent the weekend cleaning.
"It absolutely stinks. There's rats everywhere. I spent three and a half hours cleaning the kitchen sink," she told the Horowhenua Chronicle.
The tribunal, held at the Palmerston North court house last Wednesday, heard Parlane-Powell placed an advertisement on Trade Me last year after receiving advice to take on boarders to help with expenses.
She offered to clean bed linen weekly, while her advertisement also read: "cook own meals, clean up afterwards, keep area tidy and clean ... $100 per room, gardening available, lawn mowing available".
Foote was the only respondent. Parlane-Powell said nothing was signed the day he moved in on September 10, 2018. Three days later, he sourced tenancy documents, filling out the paperwork himself before asking her to sign.
She told the tribunal she wasn't shown the entire tenancy document and had signed believing it was a boarding arrangement form.
"What landlord cleans their tenant's sheets?" she told the tribunal.
The living situation quickly turned into one of conflict to the point where she asked Foote to leave. He refused, she told the tribunal.
At the suggestion of her lawyer, Parlane-Powell temporarily moved into a rest home but when money ran out she was out on the street, the tribunal heard.
She put her house on the market in an effort to end the occupancy. She bought the house in 2006 for $135,000, and still owed the bank $105,000, she said.
Foote instigated proceedings with the tribunal, seeking $13,000 from Parlane-Powell in a range of claims.
He listed damages as; "1) stopping my quiet enjoyment ($2000). 2) Ongoing harassment and threats ($2000). 3) Issuing a retaliatory termination notice ($4000). 4) Interfering with supply of services ($1000). 5) Unlawful entry ($1000). 6) Locking the back door and thus, blocking a fire escape ($3000)."
At the hearing, adjudicator Mr R Woodhouse said he had to determine whether the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) 1986 applied before he could consider Foote's application.
He ruled that the RTA did not apply and dismissed Foote's application "for want of jurisdiction".
In his decision, he wrote that he had the impression Parlane-Powell's lawyer had arranged the resthome stay "given the situation at the premises".
"All evidence is pointing to that initial temporary resthome placement as a consequence of conflict within the dwelling, rather than any pre-existing intention to move...."
He listed a number of factors indicating Foote was a boarder rather than a tenant.
"As the average rent in the Foxton area was between $290 and $360, it could be assumed that Foote's rate of $100 would be more aligned to that of a boarding arrangement," he said.
No bond was paid, as would be the case in a normal RTA. The adjudicator also wrote that this and other factors work "against any suggestion that the Respondent (Parlane-Powell) intended to lease the premises to the Applicant (Foote), as a residential tenancy."
"Evidence strongly favours a conclusion that the respondent's intention was only to take the applicant in as a boarder or flatmate."
He said it was highly unusual for a tenant to complete the agreement and then submit it to the landlord for signature. It was also unusual for a tenant to move in without an agreement with the owner still living in the house.
Parlane-Powell spent Christmas Day last year locked out of her own home after Foote served her with a trespass order in the presence of police on Christmas Eve.
In an email to police, Parlane-Powell's lawyer and a real estate agent, Foote accused Parlane-Powell of threatening behaviour and said he feared for his safety.
Parlane-Powell provided a copy of the email to the Horowhenua Chronicle.
"I believe that Lynn is capable of stabbing or shooting me, as she has threatened to do," the email said.
Parlane-Powell said the situation had driven her to madness. She admitted having anger issues as a result of a head injury she sustained in 1996 that ended her chess-playing career.
Returning from a chess tournament in Russia the plane landed badly at Christchurch airport. She was one of several injured on the plane and was house-bound for six years battling depression and anger as a result of head injuries.
"I hardly left the house. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't play [chess]. I became aggressive ... I was like a wild dog," she said outside the hearing.
The plane accident wasn't her only brush with serious injury. In 1970, she was nearly killed after being run over by a trolley bus on Courtenay Place in Wellington.
She said she spent months in Wellington Hospital with injuries so bad doctors considered amputating her right leg. Her injuries were still evident today, requiring the use of a walking stick.
Foote said he refused to accept the tribunal decision and would continue his claim for $13,000.
He refuted a range of claims against him by Parlane-Powell when spoken to by Horowhenua Chronicle.
"I've never threatened her and never done anything to her of a negative nature. I don't know what stories she has told you but she has made a lot of accusations.
"She is irrational. She has threatened to shoot me."
He said he never abused Parlane-Powell, but admitted he "might have sworn at her in frustration," he said.
As far as he knew she had gone into resthome care of her own will, he said.
That's why he continued with the occupation of the house. He said $100 a week was a fair fee as he never had use of the entire house.
"I basically stayed out of her way," he said.
Foote said in the hearing that Parlane-Powell had always intended to move into a resthome. He said he had discussed the possibility of taking over mortgage and rates payments until she had found a resthome to suit her needs, at which point the house would be put up for sale.
He said he agreed to an increase in rent of $200 per week on the condition he had a month to find a second tenant to share the rent.
Parlane-Powell originally wanted a 12-month fixed term contract, although he only wanted six months as he was negotiating a work contract that was due to start in March, he said.
He had not agreed to a boarding arrangement with Parlane-Powell.
"This was unacceptable to me as I wanted the normal 90 or 42-day notice allowed for a periodic tenancy under the Residential Tenancies Act," he said.
A new hearing has been set down for March 13 to allow both parties an opportunity to be heard in person before the tribunal decides whether or not to grant a rehearing. If a rehearing is granted, the application will be heard by a different adjudicator.