Auckland tenant asked to move out at 36 weeks pregnant hopes successful Tenancy Tribunal appeal sets precedent for other women

Auckland tenant asked to move out at 36 weeks pregnant hopes successful Tenancy Tribunal appeal sets precedent for other women
Photo credit: Getty Images

A tenant who was asked to leave her Auckland flat for being pregnant says she hopes her successful appeal against a Tenancy Tribunal decision means others don't have to go through a similar "traumatic" experience.

Josephine Rawstorne won in the tribunal in 2020 after taking action against Westside Management, trading as Quinovic Property Management. They, through the property owner, asked her to leave her flat when she was 36 weeks pregnant.

Following the tribunal hearing, she was reimbursed $1431.87 of overpaid rent and received her $2080 bond back.

She was told to leave her Grey Lynn home she shared with her partner because it meant there would be too many occupants in the flat and therefore in breach of the contract.

Rawstorne then appealed that decision in the Auckland District Court last year and was awarded $2500 plus costs.

But the costs haven't been paid and its total is $7212.50, Rawstorne said.

Quinovic chief executive Grant Sheridan has since said they will pay the costs in full. He also said that as of mid-2021, the franchisee involved, Westside Management, is no longer working under Quinovic.

The judgement sum of $2500 was paid, Sheridan said, but they were made aware of outstanding costs on Tuesday that hadn't yet been paid.

"While Westside Management has acted in breach of its obligations in this instance, Quinovic Property Management acknowledges and recognises the need to do the right thing by its customers and can confirm that the outstanding costs of $7212.50 will be paid to Ms Rawstorne as a matter of priority by Quinovic Property Management," Sheridan said.

Westside Management Ltd was ordered to pay these costs in December 2021 and Rawstorne said getting this paid has been a long time coming.

"It's been a long time waiting that they were meant to pay those costs," she told Newshub.

"We appealed this to the district court because we didn't think the public interest had been addressed and that they wouldn't do it again. So it's satisfying in that respect, but I'm not receiving $7000, but that wasn't the point ever, it being about the money. It was about public interest."

Rawstorne said when she told Quinovic that she was pregnant, it was the property owner, Morag Halley, who raised concerns about there soon being three people in the flat.

"It has been brought to [the owner's] attention that you are due to have a baby in September and she has raised some concerns of how you will be in breach of your tenancy and that unfortunately she's not wanting three occupants in the property. She would ideally like you to move out as soon as possible and won't hold you to your tenancy," an email sent on September 2, 2019 from the landlord to Rawstorne said.

"[The owner] hasn't given me a specific time, all she said to me on the phone was ideally sooner rather than later as obviously you will be in breach."

Rawstorne responded: "Currently 36 weeks pregnant, moving out now or straight after the birth is not an option, my health and that of the newborn will be compromised.

"Despite being on a fixed-term contract until February 2020 I will co-operate and move out… but no earlier than December 2019, ideally not before December 14, 2019, once our baby is at least two months old."

Auckland tenant asked to move out at 36 weeks pregnant hopes successful Tenancy Tribunal appeal sets precedent for other women
Photo credit: Getty Images

Later at mediation after Rawstorne had given birth, it was mutually agreed the tenancy would be reduced and would end on November 24, 2019.

The district court found that Quinovic had unlawfully discriminated against Rawstorne. "Ignorance of the law" wasn't an excuse, the judge said, since they are specialist landlords.

Rawstorne told Newshub that there wasn't an issue when her partner later moved into the flat, so didn't believe a baby would be a problem.

Being asked to move out of her flat while 36 weeks pregnant was traumatic for her, she said.

"Just being asked that question [about how it felt] brings up so much trauma in my body and I feel like I want to cry. It's just, like, my whole body is shaking right now, which is so crazy because it's been such a long time," she said.

"I hope this never happens to anyone because it's a horrible feeling, it's a traumatic experience, for sure, to be told that when you're setting up your flat to be a home for your child."

Rawstorne said she didn't have much contact with Halley and only met her on one occasion at the flat when their paths crossed.

Newshub contacted Halley and asked her whether the decision to ask Rawstorne to leave the rental while she was 36 weeks pregnant did come from her.

"There's a lot of background to that which isn't being reported, and I don't know if it's my position to do that because I wasn't involved in that Tenancy Tribunal in any way," she said.

"I wasn't really party to it. It was between the people that owned that branch of Quinovic at the time and Josephine, so I won't comment any further than that."

Rawstorne said her goal of taking her case to the district court was to set a precedent for other pregnant women.

"It's not about the fight for the money or anything like that, it was about other people not having to go through what I went through," she said.

"Having a supportive person is so important, there's always people out there to help you. I would've given up had it not been my friend saying, 'This is not right'. People need to know that they can reach out and there are people who can help if you're ever in this situation."