A landlord who removed a front door to a rental property before it was ransacked, and threatened jail time if the tenants didn't move out within 16 days, must pay thousands in compensation.
In a recently released tenancy tribunal decision Darren Phillip Thomas Williams has been ordered to pay Seiko Miyazaki and Masmi Motogami damages and compensation of $6520.44 after a series of "serious and egregious" breaches.
These include unlawfully attempting to raise the rent, unlawfully entering the Birkdale property and taking away the front door, damaging or causing the tenants possessions to be wilfully damaged and serving them with an unlawful trespass notice.
The North Shore tribunal heard Williams had wanted to raise the rent from $485 to $540 per week for the Lauderdale Rd house despite a six-month freeze relating to March's Covid outbreak.
Williams, who could not be reached for the pre-arranged phone hearing, refused pleas to delay the increase until late September.
He then served an illegal trespass notice on the tenants on July 18 telling them they had to be out of the property by August 3 - giving just 16 days' notice - and threatening a steep fine or three months in jail if they didn't get out by then.
The tribunal heard the upset tenants tried to request more time but failed to move Williams.
"He yelled at one of them, shouting that he would come to the property on August 4 and if they had not vacated by then he would put their possessions on the roadside kerb," said Hogan.
Then on August 1 the landlord took the "extraordinary" measure of taking off the main door into the home, described by adjudicator Hogan as a "gross interference in their entitlement to secure possession".
Williams had Miyazaki and Motogami returned home mid-afternoon to discover the door gone and their property left insecure.
Tree branches were left stacked in the entrance way, blocking the way into the house.
The pair found someone had gone inside and damaged their TV, cut cords to their vacuum cleaner, oil heaters and a microwave, smashed an electric kettle and broken and bent several kitchen knives.
A neighbour reported they had seen the landlord on the property.
Later that day the landlord reinstalled the front door.
The tribunal heard the tenants did not ask what he was doing as they were too afraid to approach him.
They went to police but have not yet received a response.
"During the first couple of those hours while the tenants were absent, and the house was empty, either the landlord or someone else damaged the tenant's possessions," said Hogan in his judgment.
"Whoever it was, the unlawful removal of the front door by the landlord resulted in the property being left insecure and the tenants' possessions being damaged. The landlord is responsible for that."
He described serving a trespass notice on the tenants was an "extraordinary and egregious" breach of the Residential Tenancies Act.
The tenants had lawful legal possession of the property which could only be ended with a 90-day notice of termination.
"Not surprisingly, being served with an unlawful trespass notice that threatened imprisonment caused the tenants alarm and distress and was a breach of their entitlement to possession and quiet enjoyment."
Phillips has been ordered to pay the couple immediately.