Auckland landlord ordered to pay thousands to tenants due to damp, mouldy house

A pair of tenants living in an Auckland property "afflicted with damp and mould issues" will receive nearly $10,000 from the landlord after a decision by the Tenancy Tribunal. 

The ruling, which is dated July 16, orders landlord Shiyu Dong to pay Ting Xiao and Zheng Zhao $9904.48 after the Tenancy Tribunal found several breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. Of that, $6050 is due to damp and mould issues. 

Stella Ren, a property manager who, according to the ruling, became involved in the matter "because she felt sorry for the tenants who are new immigrants from China and speak little English", said the house is "extensively affected by damp and mould". 

This is understood to be the result of "the premises' guttering which is allowing water to seep into the premises' walls". A quote from a roofing company last year said the "existing gutters are falling the wrong way causing them to hold water and leak". 

"Ms Ren considers the house uninhabitable and would not act for a landlord who tried to let it out," the decision said. 

A "routine inspection document" from Ren found that the dining room, living room, three bedrooms, bathroom, external walls, gutters and deck all had issues.

"The house was clearly afflicted with damp and mould issues. The lounge, bathroom, and bedrooms were particularly affected," the Tenancy Tribunal said.

The ruling said the tenants' children had become unwell "with colds and rashes consistent with living in cold, damp and moulding conditions". Doctors' invoices, laboratory results and prescriptions confirmed the children had visited the doctors on multiple occasions. 

"Consequently, the children slept in the master bedroom with their parents due to the mould in the other bedrooms. In fact, according to Ms Ren, the tenants and their children spent the majority of their time while on the premises in the master bedroom as that was the least affected by mould."

Translated comments from the tenants' WeChat show the pair saying "the premises were very cold and damp, they could see their breath when they exhaled". 

"The mould developed very quickly. The tenants told the landlord that they thought there must be a problem with the insulation, but he did not address the issues.

"The presence of mould and damp significantly affected the premises in the cooler, wetter winter months. The tenants tried to avoid using the mouldier rooms. The premises were severely affected for about 22 weeks over the winter months."

Among other breaches identified were the failure to make an insulation statement and the loss of amenities. Exemplary damages were also awarded. 

"The landlord committed the unlawful acts intentionally. He knew about the problems but did not address them. The acts had a highly detrimental effect upon the tenants. It is in the tenants’ interests and in the public interest that an appropriate level of exemplary damages is awarded."

There was a claim that cameras in the house interfered with the tenants' privacy, but as the tenants were told the cameras didn't work and there was no evidence they did, the tribunal dismissed this claim.