Drug destruction proved despite no pre-tenancy test

Date: 31 Oct 2023

Although a Christchurch landlord did not do a pre-tenancy methamphetamine test, he was still able to evict the tenant because a circular saw was used to cut through the front door which he had to replace with a brand-new door that subsequently tested positive for the drug.

While the Tenancy Tribunal will not usually terminate a tenancy on the grounds of methamphetamine contamination unless there has been a pre-tenancy test, adjudicator J Greene says the replacement brand new door installed a week after the tenancy started, which was “then shown to be contaminated, is proof of probable methamphetamine contamination during the tenancy”.

Tenant Bridget Quartermain’s mother, who represented her at the Tenancy Tribunal, says in the absence of a pre-tenancy methamphetamine report, landlord Barry Gamble could not prove her daughter caused the contamination at the Linwood flat.

While Gamble says he did not have the premises tested before the tenancy, he produced evidence methamphetamine had been used, possibly manufactured, at the premises resulting in the contamination in six rooms to levels well in excess of 15μg/100cm2. That is a level above which it is considered dangerous to people’s health. Only two rooms and the garage were below 15μg/100cm2 which is the level the tribunal works to when determining whether premises are contaminated to a point where there is endangerment to health.

“At levels of 32, 35, 48, 49, 73 and 95μg/100cm2, the contamination meant the premises were so seriously damaged as to be uninhabitable, says Greene.

Gamble says he also found a meth pipe, a quantity of meth; and cannabis offcuts at the flat, which he referred to the police.

Mrs Quartermain also claimed her daughter was not given a property inspection report at the start of the one-year fixed term tenancy but Gamble showed a report signed by both him and the tenant signed at the beginning of the tenancy, recording various damage and defects.

She also says the landlord wrongly terminated the tenancy because it was fixed term. However, Greene says Gamble could issue a seven-day notice to terminate the tenancy, whether a fixed term or periodic tenancy, if the premises are destroyed or are so seriously damaged as to be uninhabitable.

“The methamphetamine contamination arose as an intentional act. Using drugs – the report suggests possible manufacture to produce such high levels of contamination – is not a careless act, it is an intentional act. While the landlord’s claim is not limited to the insurance excess or four weeks’ rent, he has just claimed the excess of $2,500.00 and the tribunal awards that.”

After receiving the methamphetamine test report, the landlord on March 23 gave Quartermain seven days to get out of the flat but she did not leave until 7 May. After Quartermain left, Gamble applied to the tribunal for rent arrears, compensation, and the bond. Quartermain cross applied in defence to the landlord’s application, but this was subsequently withdrawn by her mother, who consented to the bond being paid to Gamble.

At the end of July Greene issued time tabling directions for the filing of evidence and submissions for the rest of Gamble’s claim, but neither Gamble nor Quartermain took any notice. A further adjourned hearing had to be scheduled to August.

At 11.41 pm the night before the hearing Mrs Quartermain emailed a substantial document to Greene saying it was her daughter’s defence. Included was a statement of a counter claim amounting to $77,780.50. There was no mention in the application of the claims against the landlord. She was told it could not be heard as it had not been filed with the tribunal and a filing fee had not been paid.

Despite repeated guidance to Mrs Quartermain, she insisted her daughter’s counter claim should be heard as a defence. “Her intransigence on this point was discourteous to the tribunal,” Greene says. “She would not be guided. Filing the counter claim a few hours before the scheduled hearing is an abuse of process.” 

The tribunal told Mrs Quartermain as she was not the tenant she could not file a claim against the landlord, but her daughter could make an application and pay the filing fee. Any claim for costs cannot be heard until she does this.

The rest of Gamble’s claims against Quartermain were successful. She has to pay him $5484.93 for rent arrears, repairing damage caused by a dog to  kitchen vinyl, holes in the master bedroom and front door frame from Quartermain installing a digital front lock for protection without landlord consent, skip hire, replacing a council red bin,  lock and key replacement, cleaning oil off the driveway, landlord labour for rubbish and a structure build for cats in the back yard removal, replacing meth contaminated smoke alarms and insurance excess for meth contamination.

Drug destruction proved despite no pre-tenancy test

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