Christchurch tenant kicked out of rental property for removing smoke alarms, collecting 'significant' rubbish

Christchurch tenant kicked out of rental property for removing smoke alarms, collecting 'significant' rubbish
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A Christchurch woman's tenancy has been terminated after she accumulated so much rubbish, the debris obstructed the doorways to several rooms. 

Anna Gabrielle Scholefield also refused to allow the landlord to carry out an inspection and removed smoke alarms from the Hoon Hay rental property.

According to a Tenancy Tribunal order, the landlord discovered a "significant amount of rubbish and debris" while undertaking a routine inspection on January 19.

"The landlord provided photographs which show that it is not possible to enter some rooms because of the debris," adjudicator R Morgan said in the order.

Scholefield had also removed the smoke alarms - devices that had been installed at the beginning of her tenancy in November 2020. 

She was subsequently served 14-day notices on January 21, requiring her to tidy the premises and reinstall the smoke detectors. The landlord advised Scholefield they would reinspect the property on February 5 following the expiration of the notices.

However, when the landlord returned to the Hoon Hay address on February 5, Scholefield refused to allow entry. The curtains were shut, but the landlord could see through the front door that Scholefield had not complied with the notices. 

"The landlord gave evidence that the tenant said she had not had time to tidy the property," Morgan said. 

Scholefield had also stopped paying rent after the application to terminate her tenancy was filed, according to the order.

The tribunal ruled to terminate Scholefield's tenancy as she had breached her obligations by failing to keep the premises reasonably clean and tidy and by removing the smoke alarms.

Scholefield did not attend the hearing.

"I accept the landlord's evidence and given the tenant failed to attend the hearing, I am satisfied that it would be inequitable to refuse to terminate the tenancy," Morgan said.

Removing smoke alarms, a breach of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, is punishable by up to $4000 in exemplary damages. Exemplary damages are awarded to a complainant when the defendant has been found guilty of outrageous conduct, and are granted in addition to compensation.

The adjudicator found Scholefield had committed an "unlawful act" by taking down the devices, including an alarm that was next to the property's bedrooms. 

"Given the safety reasons the smoke alarms, especially adjacent to sleeping areas, I am satisfied that an award of exemplary damages is appropriate in the circumstances," Morgan said.

Scholefield has been ordered to pay $1000 in exemplary damages to Professionals Christchurch Limited, as well as $20.44 to reimburse the landlord's filing fee.

Possession of the property was granted to Professionals Christchurch Limited on February 24, 2021.

The landlord said they will file a further application for rent arrears and compensation.