A Bay of Islands woman has won a $1600 Tenancy Tribunal payout after being attacked by fleas in a "pet free" rental.
Robyn Walsh chose the rental in the northern holiday town of Paihia because her partner was "severely allergic to cats" and the apartment complex had been advertised as pet free.
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Yet she quickly noticed signs and smells of animal life, a recently released Tenancy Tribunal decision said.
Two days into her tenancy last December, she told property managers LJ Hooker Kerikeri she could smell cat urine in the wardrobe.
A neighbour had also told her the previous tenants kept a cat.
Then three days later, Walsh told the LJ Hooker team fleas were in the flat.
Walsh was bitten numerous times on her legs and could not sit on the couch or any of the soft furnishings because they were alive with fleas, the tribunal decision said.
The LJ Hooker team called in a pest controller, who treated the house the next day, December 13.
By December 16, the pest controller declared the flea problem resolved.
However, Walsh handed her keys in and terminated her fixed-five month tenancy early on December 31.
The Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator ruled Walsh was within her rights to break her fixed term tenancy as a result of the infestation and the rental being "mistakenly" advertised as having a pet free history.
The adjudicator also awarded Walsh compensation for the cost of buying flea sprays, dry cleaning her clothes and other cleaning costs, along with a 50 per cent rent reduction for her short stay in the rental.
Walsh argued fleas presented dangers as potential carriers of the plague and typhus.
However, the adjudicator didn't award a full rental refund, saying she had been able to derive some benefits from the flat.
He said LJ Hooker had only just taken over as property managers and weren't aware the previous tenant had kept a cat.
They also acted promptly to treat the apartment and respond to Walsh's requests.
And, as a result of the episode, the landlord had lost the benefit of a five-month fixed term tenancy, the adjudicator said.
"It would be excessive and punitive to require the landlord to refund all the rent received, in addition to paying Ms Walsh's costs, and losing the benefit of rental income for
the duration of the fixed term."