A Taumarunui landlord has been ordered to pay almost $6000 to tenants from two separate tenancies after evicting them both when they complained about mould.
The decision comes after the three tenants spoke to the Herald in July about their plight in the Hillsview Cres rental - which was described as cold, damp and riddled with mould.
Previous tenant Jazmin Thomsen was served a 90-day eviction notice after complaining to the property manager and requesting a health and safety inspection from the local council.
She later found out she was the second tenant in 18 months to be evicted after raising concerns about the property.
Previous tenants Kelly Lunam and Glynn Redshaw confirmed they'd faced similar issues there between December 2014 and March last year.
The couple were served a 90-day eviction notice in January last year after they complained about the lack of insulation and heating.
After being contacted by Thomsen, the couple visited the property and were shocked at what they found.
"They threw us out so they could renovate the place, and all they've done is cut down a couple of trees, painted one window sill and installed insulation," Lunam said.
"We have photos they took in the inspections while we were there, and the issues are still exactly the same, like rotten spouting, no sealant around the bath, and no source of heating.
"Now they are trying to say it's a recent damp issue, but we asked them about it every time we had a house inspection, which was like every three months."
Thomsen said she was "pissed off" that she'd been allowed to move into a house that both the owners and property managers knew, or should have known, wasn't healthy.
Both parties took the matter to the Tenancy Tribunal.
The Tenancy Tribunal decisions, released this week, found the landlord - Talk Property Ltd, trading as Harcourts Taumarunui - breached its obligation to provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair.
In regards to Lunam and Redshaw's tenancy, the report noted key factors as broken spouting, a damaged bath, water-damaged wall paper, and water staining on the ceiling.The order said comparative photographs of the premises showed the same issues during the two tenancies.
"Before having met each other or brought these applications these tenants and Thomsen reported exactly the same issues with cold, dampness and mould at the premises," the report said.
"That suggests to me that the accumulation and growth of mould in the premises was more than as a result the tenants' failure to keep the family premises reasonably clean and tidy."
In regards to Thomsen's tenancy, the tenancy adjudicator also noted:
"The evidence satisfies me that the landlord has breached this obligation. The premises did not have a working shower at the start of the tenancy. The bedroom curtains were clearly inadequate, the concrete steps presented a safety hazard and the premises were badly affected by damp and mould," B. King said.
The report also ruled there was no evidence of any significant remediation work having been done between the two tenancies.
During Thomsen's tenancy, a health and safety inspection was done by the Ruapehu District Council.
Evidence provided to the tribunal by environmental health officer Phoebe Harrison found the mould "was more likely than not [caused by] building dampness issues rather than inadequate ventilation or cleaning of the premises".
Provided with this evidence, tenancy adjudicator King said, "Finally, and fundamentally, the tenants lived in the premises on a day-today basis and have given evidence about the extent and effect of the damp and mould inside the premises and of the steps they took to remediate it.
"I have no reason to disbelieve their evidence which if true suggests problems with moisture in the premises or beyond what they as tenants should be responsible for dealing with."
King said the tenants were entitled to compensation "for having to live in premises affected by issues which were not their responsibility", and "conditions that were unsatisfactory".
"The effect on the tenant is apparent . . . and clearly there is a public interest, recognised and now legislated for in the healthy homes standards, in ensuring landlords provide tenants with homes that are healthy and safe to live in," King said.
In regards to Thomsen's tenancy, the tribunal also considered whether the landlord serving her with 90-day notice was retaliatory.
For a notice to be declared retaliatory, the tenant must prove that in terminating the tenancy, the landlord was motivated wholly or partly by the tenant exercising a right under the tenancy agreement or any legislation, or by any complaint against the landlord.
"When considering the chain of events and the landlord's assertion in the notice that the damp issues at the premises were recently identified when those issues had been apparent for some time, I am satisfied on balance that the 90-day notice was motivated, at least in part, by the tenant raising issues about the condition of the premises. It is therefore retaliatory and unlawful," the report said.
At the end of the hearings, Harcourts Taumarunui was ordered to pay Thomsen a total of $4220 in compensation and exemplary damages.
The landlord was also ordered to pay Lunam and Redshaw $1650 in compensation and exemplary damages.