Three renters whose toilet blocked so easily they were forced to dispose of used toilet paper in the rubbish bin have been awarded more than $1400.
The Tenancy Tribunal found their property limited, Iron Bridge Property Management (Wgtn) Limited, in breach of its responsibilities after the tenants were forced to live with an ill-functioning toilet for at least 13 weeks.
From the beginning of their tenancy at the Kilbirnie rental in Wellington, the trio encountered ongoing issues with their toilet, which they say was sporadically prone to blocking.
After calling in a plumber, who initially said the pipes were blocked, the issue was later found to be the toilet itself.
The toilet was replaced in July last year, but was still blocking and the tenants "had by now taken the extreme step of not putting toilet paper down the toilet but disposing of that in the rubbish bin," the tribunal heard.
"Their evidence was that this was the situation until the end of the tenancy on 31 January 2020."
Less than a month after the toilet was replaced, the landlord was notified that base of the toilet had begun to leak.
Two months later, the base was leaking every time the toilet was flushed.
It was finally repaired on November 15, three months after the landlord was first notified of the issue.
In a decision released last month, the adjudicator found that the landlord had initially dealt with the toilet's issues in a timely way, but afterwards there was "clearly a communication breakdown".
"However, the evidence also demonstrates that the tenant advised the property
manager regularly of the continuing blockage issue with the new toilet from 13
August," the decision read.
"They say they lived with that for approximately four months until the end of the tenancy as nothing was done.
"A functioning toilet means one toilet paper can be deposited in; this toilet was therefore not functioning."
In compensation for the ongoing issues with the toilet, the tenants were awarded $650.
But the trio also received an additional $750 in exemplary damages, as the landlord failed to remedy the leak, even though they had been informed of the problem.
"The landlord's failure to act between August and November was an intentional failure because they were aware there was an issue," the decision read.
While the tribunal didn't consider the property manager to be acting maliciously, their failure to act had a significant impact on the tenants, the adjudicator found.
"They were having to spend a lot of time unblocking the toilet and it was unhygienic and unsanitary.
"It is clearly in the public interest that landlords provide hygienic sanitary facilities."
Iron Bridge Property Management (Wgtn) Limited was ordered to pay its ex-tenants a total of $1,420.44, made up of compensation, exemplary damages and a reimbursement of the filing fee.