A landlord in Auckland was ordered to pay thousands after he made his tenant endure walking up 20 flights of stairs while the tenant owed him money.
The issue first appeared before New Zealand's Tenancy Tribunal in December 2022, when the tenant, whose name is suppressed, was NZ$2970 ($2750) behind in rent after his catering business hit hard times.
Stuff reported the tenant counterclaimed that landlord Vinh Nguyen had not installed any form of heating in the Albert St apartment, located in Auckland's CBD, as required under healthy homes standards.
Despite being ordered by the tribunal to put in a wall heater, Nguyen continued to ignore his obligation.
But, his greater offence was cancelling the tenant's electronic lift key.
During a second hearing in April 2023, which the landlord did not attend, the tribunal heard that the tenant had to use the stairs to get up his 20th floor apartment in the City Gardens building.
The tenant still had a physical key to the apartment's front door, but had to rely on the good grace of neighbours to let him into the front entrance of the building before making an exhausting ascent.
"The landlord has intentionally interfered with the reasonable peace and comfort of the tenant in his use of the premises in circumstances that amount to harassment," adjudicator Jack Tam wrote in his decision.
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The definition for harassment used by the tribunal includes "to trouble, worry or distress" as well as "to wear out, tire, or exhaust".
Nguyen was stung for the offence under two sections on the Residential Tenancies Act for a total of $2590. This was $1390 for harassment and $1200 for "altering the locks".
But that wasn't all. In March, Nguyen had also sent a text to the tenant telling them they had four days to move out of the apartment.
"The landlord has no grounds to terminate the tenancy, let alone by text," Tam wrote.
For this unlawful act, the landlord was ordered to pay a further $2775.
Finally, Nguyen was also ordered for the second time to install a heater in the apartment.
Tam took the unusual step of writing in his orders that if the work wasn't done, that the tenant could have it done himself at a cost of up to $1390 and offset that cost from his rent.
Further, while the tenant had still been in arrears, Tam ordered that this amount could be taken off the landlord's ordered payments, meaning the debt would be settled, and the tenant would receive $2620 for his trouble.
For good measure, the landlord also had to pay the tribunal's $18.90 filing fee.
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