A tenant who ran amok, smashing the front doors of an apartment block with the security camera, has cost the owners of one of the units $20,000, of which more than half is now legal costs.
And while the owners have been paid out on an insurance claim, at the time the Tenancy Tribunal released its decision in June this year, they had not handed over the money to the body corporate which paid to fix the damage.
A body corporate is made up of unit owners who pay an annual fee towards the cost of the building, including management, maintenance and insurance.
The tenant was understood to have caused the damage when she left, following notice the tenancy had been ended. An affidavit from a representative of the firm which managed the complex said CCTV video footage showed the tenant knocking down the camera in the lobby near the entrance to the apartment block.
She was also seen to use the camera to smash the glass door of the entrance into the building before kicking dents in the outside of the lift doors.
While there was no video footage from inside the lift, it was claimed that the tenant was responsible for damage caused to a door from the inside. The tenant was also said to be responsible for damage to a wall on a level of the apartment block, which was witnessed by other occupants.
The tribunal has now ordered Stephen and Olga Bullent to pay $20,798 to the body corporate for damage done to the Eclipse Apartments in central Auckland, and associated costs.
The order includes they pay almost $6500 for the damage, which the Bullents received on their insurance claim, less $1000 after the excess was deducted.
The management firm declined to comment when approached by Open Justice.
The body corporate went ahead and repaired the damage, then sought to recover the costs from the unit owners.
The tribunal's decision follows a dispute by the apartment owners over the extent of the damage, and matters around insurance.
Judicial officer Rex Woodhouse said in his decision he was unable to understand why the unit owner had not paid the insurance settlement to the body corporate at the first opportunity.
"I was surprised to hear that the unit owner was still holding this money."
Attempts by Open Justice to contact the Bullents have been unsuccessful so far.
The Bullents accepted that some of the damage claimed was caused by their tenant but considered they were liable for only the insurance excess, which they offered earlier on. The body corporate declined their $1000 offer, because by then the full sum including legal and administration costs had risen to just over $9000.
The Bullents argued the damage would have been covered under the body corporate's insurance policy, but it had declined to make a claim.
The tribunal said it was unclear, and neither did the body corporate's lawyer know why it had not made a claim on the policy held by the apartment complex. It had instead filed a claim in the Tenancy Tribunal in August last year, seeking to recover the full cost of the damage, plus the associated collection costs.
"The unit owners' position is that the body corporate should have made a claim on the insurance policy in the first instance, and if they had done so, then the unit owners would only be required to pay the insurance excess.
"That is correct to a degree. While the lion's share of the repair cost would have been paid by the insurer, the unit owners would still have been liable for not only the excess, but also the reasonable costs for the recovery of that debt," Woodhouse said.
He said had that payment been made, then there would only be the dispute over the recovery costs.
The law governing unit titles states that a body corporate can recover debt recovery costs. Rules governing the operation of a body corporate also allow recovery of the costs of repairs from the unit owners, including all costs incurred with the recovery of the debt, including legal costs and interest.