Auckland renter who found neighbour hiding in ceiling wins compensation 

  • 15/01/2024
Auckland renter who found neighbour hiding in ceiling wins compensation 
Photo credit: Getty Images

An Auckland renter who reported 25 incidents involving his neighbours, ranging from theft to finding one in his ceiling, has been awarded compensation by the Tenancy Tribunal.

The complainant and his partner moved into their Grey Lynn unit in April 2023.    

Their home is managed by Central West Property Management and is one of three in a converted weatherboard house that shares a common yard.    

The complainant told the Tribunal that problems with his neighbours in the next unit began the day he moved in.   

He had a washing machine delivered to his front door, only for a man, later identified as 'David', to take the washing machine and roll it into unit 3.    

He called the police, and the washing machine was recovered.    

In the wake of this welcome, the complainant installed a security camera to record incidents that occurred on his doorstep and in the common area in front of his unit.    

Incidents ranged from people urinating on the outside wall of his unit, exposing themselves to his camera, peering through his windows, and looking through his mailbox.   

The people recorded on the camera were the same people he saw coming and going from unit 3 on a regular basis and he concluded that one of them was the tenancy holder.    

The complainant said people associated with unit 3 also collected Uber Eats orders of his, had loud arguments and fights in the common area, made gang hand signals, and threw rubbish across the yard.    

There was also behaviour that he believed pointed to drug dealing happening from unit 3.    

One of the most disturbing incidents came when he heard loud noises in his ceiling.    

Upon investigating the ceiling cavity above his unit, he saw a person he recognised from unit 3 trying to hide.    

The person returned to the ceiling hatch for unit 3, but he called the police.   

Someone was taken away in custody after the incident.    

Another time, one of the acquaintances of the tenant at unit 3 approached the complainant and said, "suck my dick. Next time I see you I'll beat the shit out of you, you dumb American".   

In total, the complainant pointed the Tribunal towards 25 incidents with people he could identify over the course of his relatively short tenancy.    

He told the Tribunal that he expected better communication from the landlord about what was being done to address his problems.    

Following the ceiling incident, the complainant said he heard nothing from the landlord for three days.    

He also received no response for four to five other incidents.     

The complainant asked for reimbursement for the costs of the work he had undergone to protect his privacy from the tenants at unit 3, including a CCTV camera, opaque film to cover his windows, and locks for his letterbox.    

He also asked for reduced rent because he felt unable to use the common area yard.    

He said he felt unsafe going outside and didn't feel he could safely leave his partner alone in the premises.    

The property manager, Scott Hickey, accepted that he was also responsible for managing unit 3, but said he had only begun managing the tenancies in June 2023, and has not been involved in selecting the tenants.    

While he didn't question the authenticity of the complainant's claims, he did point out that the security camera did not record people leaving and entering unit 3.    

Hickey said that he responded to all of the complainant's notifications when he felt he had sufficient cause.    

He also said that, in his view, at least one of the incidents from unit 3 was "retaliatory" in nature against the complainant.

The Tribunal found that the incidents against the complainant amounted to harassment and there was no suggestion he had provoked unit 3 or retaliated in any way.    

The Judge found the landlord did not take all reasonable steps to ensure tenants were not harassing each other and suggested the security measures the complainant installed should have been installed at the landlord's expense.   

"Better communication... may have led to solutions being implemented at an earlier stage," the Judge said.    

The complainant received a total of $955.44 in compensation.    

He was awarded $200 for the security camera, $30 for the opaque film for the glass, $20 for locks for the letterbox, $60 for blackout curtains.    

A rent reduction of $25 a week was also calculated and paid for 25 weeks from the beginning of June 2023 through to the date of the hearing for a total of $625.