Landlord Tried to Evict Disabled Tenant Over Cleanliness

A landlord failed in his attempt to evict a cognitively disabled car accident victim for failing to keep her rental home clean.

The social housing provider, which specializes in providing accommodation to people with mental health and addiction problems, was hoping to kick the man out despite having nowhere else to live.

The supplier took the man to Tenancy Court earlier this year hoping to evict him after he failed several inspections and ignored orders to clean the house.

The tenant, who had lived in the two-bedroom unit in Waikato since 2018 without incident, was involved in a car accident in 2021 and suffered a serious head injury.

That injury caused a decline in his cognitive functioning, which now makes it difficult for him to process and retain content such as the warning notices sent to him by his owner.

Both the tenant and the landlord obtained name suppression from Court Judge Glenn Barnett, who dismissed the housing provider’s application to evict its long-term tenant.

According to that ruling, the landlord inspected the property seven times between July 2023 and January 2024. After each inspection, they issued a notice of noncompliance that gave the tenant two weeks to return the property to a clean and tidy condition.

The tenant, who received ACC-funded cleaning assistance due to his car accident, did not consider the property dirty and declined that assistance.

Barnett said that before the first notice of non-compliance in July 2023, two years after the tenant’s accident, there was no evidence of any cleanliness problems at the property.

“Given the absence of evidence of violations leading up to the accident, and after listening to the tenant and considering the material produced, it is more likely that the head injury was a contributing factor,” Barnett said.

“In my opinion, the state of filth must reach a level at which, objectively assessed, it causes lasting harm to the landlord or represents a demonstrable risk to the health and safety of the tenant or other persons, such as other tenants of the landlord. or close neighbors.”

Barnett said the property had not yet reached that status and that evicting the tenant on that basis would be a disproportionate response.

In a 2023 inspection, the owner found two additional occupants in the property and ordered them to leave within two weeks.

However, the tenant refused to kick them out, telling the court that they were a homeless mother and a young child for whom he felt sorry and that he had let them stay with him temporarily.

They stayed for about six weeks before a couple and another man moved in with the tenant and opted to sleep in the lounge.

The tenant again told the court that they had allowed these people to stay out of sympathy, but also admitted that they felt intimidated and had had difficulty saying no due to their cognitive impairment.

However, there was no actual provision in his lease prohibiting him from having other people occupy the house, and he had not charged any of them rent.

Barnett noted that the tenant was clearly vulnerable to exploitation, but ultimately the lease was vague about the number of occupants who could live at the address.

The owner maintained that the situation was unsustainable but was unable to offer any alternative accommodation. They acknowledged there was a housing shortage “given the current social housing climate”.

They said evicting the man was the only option they had left.

As a possible alternative, they offered to modify the lease to indicate that only he could live in the property.

Barnett encouraged the tenant to work with the landlord to maintain his accommodation “which on the current course is clearly at risk” before dismissing the landlord’s application.

– Jeremy Wilkinson, Open Justice reporter