Tenancy Tribunal orders Auckland landlord who called tenant a 'bloody Māori' to pay $8900 in damages

A landlord has been ordered to pay $8900 in damages after using derogatory language against a former tenant, calling him a "bloody Māori" and telling him to take "his Māori ass" somewhere else.
A landlord has been ordered to pay $8900 in damages after using derogatory language against a former tenant, calling him a "bloody Māori" and telling him to take "his Māori ass" somewhere else. Photo credit: Getty Images

An Auckland landlord has been ordered to pay $8900 in damages after a tribunal found the man had used derogatory language against a former tenant, calling him a "bloody Māori" and telling him to take "his Māori ass" somewhere else.

The former tenant, who had his identity suppressed by the Tenancy Tribunal, was awarded $8920.44 in exemplary damages and compensation after his landlord failed to maintain the Auckland property, leaving the premises with inadequate cooking facilities, rotten carpets, and filthy facilities. The tribunal also heard the landlord had forbidden his tenant from having guests over and had made derogatory comments about his race. 

The brief tenancy lasted about 14 weeks from November 1, 2020 to February 8, 2021. The premises were a sleepout, with the landlord living nearby in the primary property located on the same section of land. 

The sleepout, which consisted of two rooms, had inadequate cooking facilities, the tribunal found. It did not have an oven or a satisfactory stove - just a hotplate that could "barely bring a pot of water to a simmer", Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator Robert Kee said in the order.

The sleepout's power came in via extension cords plugged into power points in the main house, with water also coming from the main property via a pipe and jerry-built plumbing.

Kee noted that the sleepout had been rented to the tenant as a separate dwelling, but Auckland Council had not consented to it being used as such. 

The sleepout, which had not been cleaned by the previous tenant or the landlord, had filthy floors, rotten carpets - that were later replaced - and stained walls. 

"I am satisfied the premises couldn't lawfully be occupied as a place of residence," Kee said.

"The nature of the premises was well below an acceptable standard. The premises were unsafe due to inadequate electrical work and the lack of smoke alarms. These deficiencies were due to the premises never being vetted as they would have been, had the landlord followed the proper consent process and/or properly checked for compliance before renting the premises out.

"The landlord failed to provide the premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness. The premises were presented in a dirty condition and the tenant had to clean them himself at the beginning of the tenancy."

The tribunal also heard that the landlord would regularly enter the premises without permission, and on one occasion, "poked his nose in the door while [the tenant] was still drying himself after getting out of the shower".

"The tenant says the landlord prohibited him from having guests over, except for his son," Kee continued. "Several times, when the tenant had friends over, the landlord intruded saying the friends had to leave.

"Several times the landlord ran his race down and made derogatory comments to him.

"The landlord who lived in the adjacent main house, persistently came into the sleepout without being invited. He would tell the tenant off in various ways the tenant found insulting and demeaning."

The tenant told the tribunal that on one occasion, the landlord told him to remove the arcade game he had purchased for his son's birthday. The landlord had also called the tenant a "bloody Māori" and told him, in front of other people, to take his "Māori ass" somewhere else. 

The tribunal also found the landlord had inflicted emotional harm by giving the tenant only two weeks' notice to vacate the sleepout, despite being required under the Residential Tenancies Act to provide 90 days' notice without cause, or 42 days' notice with cause. 

As a result, the tenant was forced to sleep in his car for roughly three weeks before he moved in with some friends for a few months as he searched for a new rental.

Kee acknowledged the landlord has caused the tenant "considerable emotional distress and loss of dignity".

Following the hearing, the landlord was ordered to immediately pay the tenant $8920.44 in exemplary damages, compensation and rent refunds. 

Of the total amount, the tenant was awarded $2600 in rent refunds - $2500 of which were due to the property being unlawful, and $100 for being forced to vacate the premises for two days while the carpet was replaced. 

The landlord was ordered to pay $1500 in exemplary damages for interfering with the tenant's privacy; $650 for unlawful entry; $750 for failing to lodge the bond; $500 for failing to install smoke alarms; $500 for inadequate cooking facilities; $500 for failing to provide and maintain the property; and $250 for not keeping the premises in a clean condition. The tenant was also awarded $100 in compensation for no rubbish collection bin and $850 for the emotional harm inflicted due to unlawful notice. He was also reimbursed his bond and filing fee.