An Auckland landlord has been hit with a $2600 fine for arriving unannounced with a rifle and giving his tenants a hell of a fright.
Rental owner Marc Whinery's sudden appearance at his rural Waitakere property, west of Auckland, led to a verbal stoush and standoff with an axe-wielding tenant, a recent Tenancy Tribunal decision found.
Whinery claimed he had only intended to visit for a final bush walk with his wife and children before the property was handed to new owners the following week.
He had his gun on hand in case he saw a wild pig, he told the tribunal hearing.
But tenants Sara Piacun and Leroy Henriksen described the experience on September 21 as intimidating, stressful and frightening, with Henriksen arming himself with an axe.
Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator T Prowse sided with the tenants, saying: "I cannot think of a more dangerous situation."
"It is lucky that the confrontation ended as peacefully as it did."
Adding to the seriousness of the standoff was the fact Whinery made the visit just one day after losing an earlier Tenancy Tribunal decision, the adjudicator said.
In that hearing, he had sought to have Piacun and Henriksen evicted because he alleged they were using drugs and storing stolen goods at the rental.
He claimed the real estate agent selling his property told him this, but provided no statement from the agent or any other evidence to back the claims, the adjudicator said.
By contrast, Piacun provided an email from the same agent referring to her and her tenancy in "glowing terms".
The tribunal adjudicator subsequently dismissed Whinery's application, saying they were "very concerned" he was trying to boot his tenants out simply so he could offer the rental to a new buyer as a "vacant possession".
It was following this decision that Whinery arrived unexpectedly at the rental with his wife and three children, including one toddler.
Parking in the tenant's driveway, he went into the 4ha "bush block" out the back with his family and bolt action rifle.
Piacun and Henriksen were later "alarmed" to discover an unknown car in the driveway.
After looking in the immediate vicinity, Henriksen "armed himself with an axe" and went into the bush block where he came upon Whinery, the adjudicator said.
A "verbal altercation" ensued, before Whinery returned with his family to his car.
Whinery told the hearing he put his children in the car, and then his rifle in the
boot of the car after taking off the bolt mechanism.
"He said at no time was the gun loaded as he had the magazine in his pocket," the adjudicator said.
"The tenant and landlord both accept that Mr Whinery was asked to remain at the
property until the police got there."
"But when it became apparent that this was going to take some time, and an argument was escalating, the tenant asked him to leave, and he did."
A tenant from a neighbouring rental, also owned by Whinery, came onto the scene while the landlord was still present and waiting for police.
She told the hearing that Whinery had his gun with him, and it was only when the tenant asked him to put the gun away that he did so.
She described Whinery as being cocky and repeatedly saying he had a right to be there and that the tenants should know the law.
Piacun also claimed Whinery mocked her, calling her a "f*** idiot" and telling her to learn to speak English.
She said she suffered from "a speech impediment that worsens when she is scared or stressed".
Whinery claimed he only insulted Piacun because she racially abused his wife. Piacun denied this.
Piacun said she and her children had been so frightened they no longer felt safe. They had intended to stay on as renters under the new owners but now planned to move out.
The adjudicator reprimanded Whinery over the incident, saying they were satisfied he had gone to the rental with a rifle with the intention of intimidating and causing distress to the tenant.
"I do not accept the landlord's version of events that he wanted to go bush walking with his family, including a toddler, and that he would take his bolt action rifle with him, in case he saw a wild pig," the adjudicator said.
"I accept the tenant's submission that this was a deliberate decision by the landlord to show that he had some power after losing his tribunal claim."
The Herald has approached Whinery for comment.