Rachel Fieldhouse


Landlord overstays welcome sleeping in tent under tenant’s home

Landlord overstays welcome sleeping in tent under tenant’s home

A landlord has been ordered to pay $NZ 700 ($AUD 630) in damages for unlawful entry after he pitched a tent and stayed under his rental property.

When the tenant living in the home asked him to leave after he slept there overnight, Brian Clement verbally insulted them and came up with excuses as to why he was allowed to stay under the house, as reported by the NZ Herald.

The tenant and partner, whose names are suppressed, told the New Zealand Tenancy Tribunal that Clement repeatedly came “unannounced and overstayed” for up to three days at a time.

“The more visits the more it disturbed our sense of privacy at home,” the tenant’s girlfriend told the tribunal.

Over two years, she said she saw Clement at the house at least 15 times and that he stayed overnight seven times.

In one incident in February last year, the tenant was away and his girlfriend and her daughter were alone at home when Clement refused demands to leave.

"I cannot express how uncomfortable and weird I felt that night," the girlfriend said.

"I sent Brian a message as I could hear him around the house and asked him once more to leave."

On the two occasions she called him, he answered with “verbal insults” and said he was “just under the house catching internet Wi-Fi”.

She believed Clement would sleep in his car, only to discover the next morning that he had pitched a tent under the house and slept there.

A neighbour who confirmed the account said it was “unnerving” and that she even felt “unsafe at the time”.

She described the relationship between the tenant and Clement as “unusual and always ‘grey’”.

She said the tenants had been renting the property for over a decade, and that Clement “appeared to come and go” from the property.

Clement admitted to staying at the home overnight, but argued the tent was for storing tools and that he only slept in it for one night.

He told the tribunal that his rental agreement gave him the right, as the owner, with “access at all times, with reasonable notice, for upgrading repairs … etc” and that the house “may need to be vacated by [the tenant] for occasional visits and staying of friends”.

However, the tribunal ruled that the agreement was “entirely contrary to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, which only allows a landlord to enter the property during the rental period with the tenant’s consent, in an emergency, or with minimum notice given.

"Importantly, even if a tenant has given consent to the landlord to enter the

premises, the tenant is able to withdraw that consent at any time, and if consent is withdrawn, then the landlord would need to leave immediately," tribunal adjudicator Rex Woodhouse said.

As well as paying damages, Clement was ordered to pay an additional $1000 ($AUD 900) for the property having no or ineffective underfloor insulation.

"There is a very strong interest for tenants, landlords and the public generally, to ensure tenancies are safe and secure, and tenants being able to preclude landlords from entering or staying on the premises falls within that expectation," Woodhouse said.

Georgie Rogers, the resident of advocacy group Renters United, said tenants can go to the police if their landlords are harassing or threatening them.

"But the convoluted way of going to the Tenancy Tribunal is the only way for tenants to access their rights," Rogers said.

But, he said tenants could be named and blacklisted if their claims were unsuccessful.

Image: Getty Images

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