Landlord ordered to compensate drug-growing tenant

A New Zealand landlord has been ordered to compensate a tenant $10,000, despite the tenant’s involvement in illegal cannabis cultivation on the property.

The compensation of NZ$10,335 (AU$9579) covers breaches including unlawful entry, changing locks without permission, holding goods, and violating the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment.

The tribunal found that the landlord unlawfully evicted the tenant and withheld his belongings, according to Domain.

According to the written decision, the landlord “plainly wanted the tenant to vacate the premises” and had even “seized” the tenant’s window.

The tenant, who was growing cannabis at the Christchurch property, was convicted and served a detention sentence at the house.

The landlord, who knew the tenant before the rental agreement, attempted to terminate the lease, claiming to have issued a lawful termination notice.

However, Adjudicator Ross Armstrong determined that the notice was either invalid or not given to the tenant.

The tribunal rejected the landlord’s assertion that the tenant left voluntarily.

The tenancy, which started in January 2019, ended abruptly after 13 months.

Early on, police raided the property and found cannabis plants, leading to the tenant’s prosecution and a six-month community detention sentence that ended on 21 December 2021.

During the tenancy, the tenant allowed others to share the property, including a woman and her two children in urgent need of accommodation.

Disputes arose over the rent being charged to the woman, which led to further conflicts.

The landlord sided with the woman, worsening relations.

“There was no justification for the landlord to become involved,” Mr Armstrong wrote in his decision.

“This was an issue between the lawful tenant and his guest.

“The only rational explanation for the landlord’s actions is that he saw an opportunity to remove the tenant without the need to go through a lawful process that could be successfully disputed, and he seized it.”

The landlord’s claim that his actions were for the woman’s safety was dismissed by Mr Armstrong, who found no evidence to support it.

The landlord presented a signed rental agreement to the tribunal, but the tenant claimed to be unaware of it.

Video evidence from February showed the landlord refusing to leave the property when the tenant asked, and ordering the tenant to leave instead.

“The tenant then left and did not return.

“Legally, the landlord’s actions constituted a repudiation of the tenancy agreement which the tenant accepted.

“That means the landlord unlawfully terminated the tenancy.”

Additionally, the landlord’s failure to allow the tenant to retrieve his belongings was deemed another breach of the tenancy act.

“Having unlawfully evicted the tenant, the landlord made it difficult for the tenant to recover his goods,” Mr Armstrong said.

“This places the unlawful act near the top end of the scale.”

Although the tribunal did not suppress their names, Nine has opted not to disclose the identities of the involved parties.

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