A couple who sub-let a central Auckland apartment for $215 per night without the owner's permission has been ordered to pay damages - and give the profits back.

The Tenancy Tribunal has ruled Jian Cui and Ma Dong breached their rental agreement when they advertised the Quay St apartment for short-term rent on booking websites Airbnb and Booking.com.

The couple have denied they were renting it out short-term and said the ad was in place so they could look for a long-term flatmate to live with them.

But the Tenancy Tribunal favoured evidence by the rental agency The Rent Shop that the couple listed the apartment online the day after their tenancy agreement began on February 20, 2019.

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The apartment was advertised as "perfect for a weekend away or short stay to explore Auckland" and listed one of the tenants as the contact person. There were also a number of reviews for the property.

The tenant entered a number of tenancy agreements for Auckland apartments at the same time, despite claiming she was living in the Quay St apartment. Photo / File
The tenant entered a number of tenancy agreements for Auckland apartments at the same time, despite claiming she was living in the Quay St apartment. Photo / File

Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator Nicola Maplesden found the tenants had broken the law by intentionally sub-letting the property without the consent of the landlord - and had deliberately misled the property managers to believe they would be living in the apartment and possibly getting one more flatmate.

"I find that their deliberate intent was to make a profit from renting out the apartment."

The property managers, building manager and body corporate also fielded a number of complaints from neighbours about the different and drunken guests coming in and out of the apartment and who feared for their safety.

Police were also called to the property after an external window was broken in the middle of the night.

"The owner of the premises has suffered stress and anxiety about her property and been contacted by the body corporate advising that she may incur additional insurance and council rates if a commercial use continues," the decision said.

Jian Cui had also signed tenancy agreements for at least two other apartments in a different building for the same time frame, the tribunal discovered.

Maplesden dismissed the couple's claims that they were locked out of the property for 15 minutes by the building manager saying it was a result of them constantly breaching the tenancy agreement and ignoring the notice of breach to stop advertising the property on accommodation websites.

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It also dismissed other claims that they vacated the property early because the building manager entered the apartment without knocking as there was no evidence to support this is why they moved out earlier than agreed.

The tenancy was terminated after two months.

The couple was ordered to pay The Rent Shop a total of $1574.44 including "exemplary damages" of $850; $600 for profits earned from subletting the apartment; $104 towards repairing the window and the $20.44 filing fee.

The Rent Shop chief executive Alex Watson said the ruling was fair and reasonable and set a benchmark for both landlords and tenants if tenants chose to put their rental on third party accommodation websites.