An Auckland landlord thought they had an open-and-shut case when they tried to get compensation from their tenant for methamphetamine contamination.
They were so confident of a ruling in their favour that they spent $60,000 in decontamination and restoration at their property in Army Bay, Whangaparaoa.
The tenancy ended in October after the tenant was arrested on methamphetamine charges. The property, valued at $950,000, had tested positive for "exceedingly high" levels of methamphetamine contamination.
But their bid to claim their money back failed.
In an increasingly common occurrence, the Tenancy Tribunal said last week that the landlords had not proven that it was the most recent tenant who caused the damage.
"The property had also been tenanted prior to these tenants taking occupation," the adjudicator John Hogan said.
"And there was no baseline test provided by the landlord confirming that the property was not contaminated when this tenancy began."
City Space Realty property manager Michael Chen, who looked after the property, said he could not comment as there was ongoing legal action.
The case is part of the ongoing fallout from the $100 million meth-testing debacle. It is one of a string of recent cases in which landlords have failed to meet the test for meth-related compensation.
A report by the former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman last May debunked the official meth testing standard, saying there was no risk to health at that level of meth residue - or even 10 times higher.
The report said there was no point testing for homes where meth use was suspected, and that tests should only be carried out if police believed meth had been cooked at the property.
In response, the Tenancy Tribunal began requiring a higher level of contamination for damage claims - unless there was "exceptional evidence" that a house has been used as a clan lab.
Before the Gluckman report, tenants were evicted and fined for even the tiniest trace of meth residue - which was later found to have no health risk.
There was often no baseline test to show whether meth contamination already existed when a tenant moved in. And in some cases, circumstantial evidence was used to accuse people of meth use or manufacture - such as frequent visitors or multiple cars in the driveway.
The tribunal's stricter, evidence-based approach since the report is now catching out some landlords.
In another case concluded last week, a landlord spent $12,000 on testing and decontaminating an apartment in Wakefield St in central Auckland.
There was no evidence that the tenant had manufactured methamphetamine in the apartment. Tests showed some meth residue, but they were not detailed enough and the tribunal rejected the claim.