Tenancy Tribunal finds in favour of former tenant


An Arrowtown landlord’s been ordered to cough up almost $3000 to a former tenant, the majority of which is compensation for not installing working smoke alarms and failing to lodge a bond.

Ashley McIlroy took his Whitechapel Road landlord John Cagney to the Tenancy Tribunal last year, seeking $10,000 for “breaches of his quiet enjoyment and for the interference with his reasonable peace, comfort and privacy”, and exemplary damages for Cagney’s failure to lodge the bond, “harassment”, and for failing to provide smoke alarms and comply with health and safety enactments.

McIlroy’s tenancy started in May 2015 and up until August last year he and Cagney seemed to have a good relationship, the tribunal’s decision says.

But, when Cagney decided to do renovation and other building work at the property in August last year, the relationship deteriorated.

The tenancy ended about eight weeks later.

The tribunal threw out McIlroy’s compensation claim for the alleged breaches of quiet enjoyment on the basis his rent was reduced to take the disruption into account and, from a particular point, Cagney agreed to pay all the power, which his contractors were using.

But, it did find Cagney breached his requirements under the Residential Tenancies (Smoke Alarms and Insulation) Regulations 2016, and the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.

The decision says Cagney hadn’t installed smoke alarms, “let alone compliant ones”.

“The landlord seemed to think it was the tenant’s responsibility to make him aware of that.

“It is not. Parliament sent a clear message about the importance of safety for tenants by enacting these provisions and by providing for exemplary damages of such a high amount [up to $4000].

“I find the landlord has committed an unlawful act.

“To say ‘I didn’t know I had not lodged a bond’, or ‘I didn’t know there were no smoke alarms’ cannot be a defence to an alleged unlawful act.

“Smoke alarms go to the heart of tenant safety.

“It is in a tenant’s interest and in the public interest that landlords comply with these important requirements.”

For that, McIlroy was awarded $2000 in exemplary damages.

Cagney also accepted he didn’t lodge McIlroy’s bond, which he’s legally required to do under the Act.

While that had since been paid in full, the tribunal ordered another $400 in exemplary damages for McIlroy, along with reimbursement of the $20.44 filing fee.

The tribunal also found “breaches of quiet enjoyment” didn’t amount to harassment, but it was persuaded Cagney setting up his office from the garage tenanted caused a loss of “reasonable comfort and privacy”.

It awarded another $400 compensation for that.

It found no health and safety breaches.