Wellington tenants who spent months unable to use their toilet without afterwards battling leaks and pipe blockages have won a $1420 payout.
Tina Vao and Matthew and Helena Purcell told a recent Tenancy Tribunal hearing their bathroom problems started from the outset of their tenancy in the suburb of Kilbirnie last year.
This included using the toilet on July 2, 2019, only to discover afterwards it had become blocked.
A plumber was called and two days later advised the landlord the pipes were blocked.
Upon further analysis, however, the plumber revised their diagnosis and pointed the finger of blame at the toilet itself on July 16.
This led to a new toilet being put in place three days later.
However, it didn't bring the tenants relief as they said the new toilet also blocked after use.
"[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," tribunal adjudicator Kate Lash said.
"Their evidence was that this was the situation until the end of the tenancy on January 31, 2020."
The new toilet also sprung a second problem as the tenants noticed a leak at the base of it, which they reported to the landlord, Iron Bridge Property Management, the next month on August 14.
They then followed up with the landlord on October 29, by which time the leak happened with every flush of the toilet.
This was eventually repaired on November 15.
Weighing the evidence, adjudicator Lash awarded the tenants $650 compensation - a $50 rent reduction for each of the 13 weeks their toilet was out of action - and $750 exemplary damages for failure to provide a home free from damp and odour.
She said Iron Bridge Property Management had acted promptly last July in replacing the rental's toilet, however, they took too long to follow up and fully rectify the problem between August and November.
Their failure to do so was an intentional failure because they knew there was an issue, Lash said.
"I do not consider the property manager's actions maliciously intended, however, the impact on the tenant was significant," she said.
"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."
And while toilet paper is often deposited in small bins beside toilets overseas, Lash said the definition of a properly working toilet in New Zealand was clear.
"A functioning toilet means one toilet paper can be deposited in," she said.