A tenant has been evicted and owes her former landlord almost $50,000 in one of the worst cases of rental property damage the Tenancy Tribunal has seen.
The damage caused at the Christchurch home lived in by Alysha Hannaka Lyn Howe included ripped-out kitchen appliances and flooding, according to a ruling released to the Herald.
It was one of the most serious cases of intentional damage by a tenant the tribunal had ever seen, adjudicator J. Greene said.
The house on Owles Terrace in New Brighton was pristine when Howe moved in around a year earlier, photos show.
Landlord Yvonne Parker, owner of property investment company Champagne Homes, said she rented the four-bedroom, two-bathroom home to Howe for $450 per week.
Howe had kept the house tidy and clean and had mostly kept on top of her rent, Parker said.
But Parker said she started noticing damage after she took a potential buyer through the house and, concerned her property would be destroyed, she went to the Tenancy Tribunal, which ruled in her favour.
Howe had caused or permitted substantial damage and must leave the property, the tribunal said.
But before Parker could evict Howe, things became much worse.
“Kitchen appliances and other chattels were ripped out and removed from the premises; plumbing fixtures were removed causing substantial damage due to flooding; walls and a door were extensively scribbled on,” the tribunal said in a second ruling.
“Carpet throughout the premises was so extensively damaged that it had to be replaced; vanity units were damaged; electrical fittings were ripped out, and there was other significant damage throughout the premises.”
Testing also found methamphetamine contamination at levels suggesting P had been smoked in the house.
Howe claimed on social media around that time that she had been burgled.
The tribunal found Howe owed Parker $48,200. That included the cost of replacing the heat pump, waste disposal unit, laundry tub, carpet, tiles, locks, vanities, lights, smoke alarms, extractor fan, kitchen appliances and cabinets.
It also included fixing the gate, fence, letterbox, walls, garage floors and door, front door and plumbing, and redoing the garden.
Howe owed $1000 in rent arrears, and had to pay Parker exemplary damages of $2000 for taking out smoke alarms, which is illegal under the Residential Tenancies Act, the tribunal said.
The house was contaminated with methamphetamine, which the judge found was likely caused by Howe as it had been newly decorated before she moved in.
Parker only sought part of the clean-up cost, with the tribunal awarding her more than $6000 for decontamination work.
Howe has been the subject of previous Tenancy Tribunal rulings, including a case in Whangarei in 2013 where she was billed $5000 for repairs, cleanup and unpaid rent.
Champagne Homes owns 25 rental properties, mostly near Christchurch, and Parker manages around 15 more.
She said she believed she had done due diligence before renting Howe the house.
But the company was now increasingly going onto Facebook to get a better idea of “what type of person they are” before renting to prospective tenants.
Parker said she had always been a good landlord during her 20 years in the business.
“All of my houses are really nice, beautiful homes,” she said. “I pride myself on the fact that if I can’t live in them, I don’t want anyone else to. But 90 per cent of tenants just slowly wreck them over time.”
She was in the process of selling off her houses and getting out of the business. Rules had turned against landlords and were increasingly on the side of the tenant, she said. In the past year the company had dealt with four cases of P contamination.
“I’m so over it. I’m exhausted by all this and I just think I’d rather get into something now that’s less stressful.”