Tenants to pay for 'incredibly high' levels of meth contamination

Two tenants have been ordered to pay $29,468 in damages and compensation after their rental property was found to contain incredibly high levels of methamphetamine contamination.
In October, the Tenancy Tribunal ruled the tenants of the property at Pleasant Point, near Timaru, did not have to pay compensation, as the adjudicator was not convinced the contamination arose from any intentional act by the tenant(s).

However, the case had a rehearing on March 13, after new evidence came to light.

Following the rehearing, adjudicator M Steens ruled methamphetamine had been used or manufactured in the property during the tenancy and the tenants were liable.

* Compensation for meth contaminated house declined due to lack of proof
* Tenants ordered to pay for meth testing following contamination
* Tenant must pay $29k for damage and methamphetamine clean-up

Tenants Anthony Brooking and Dani Hodges denied they had caused the meth contamination in the property on Harris St.

Steens fined the tenants $23,575 for the cost of cleaning the meth contamination, $4022 for the cost of meth testing, and $1800 exemplary damages.

The tribunal ruling notes that while a level of meth contamination lower than 1.5ug/100cm2 is considered appropriate to minimise exposure risks, the limit to give rise to any adverse effects is 15ug/100cm.

The post-tenancy contamination testing undertaken by the landlord showed levels of 147ug/100cm2 in the hall, 118 in bedroom four, and 70 in bedroom two. The rest of the house varied between 8.1 in the bathroom and 54 in bedroom one.

The post-tenancy readings are incredibly high, Steens said.

Of course, the readings could have been even higher before the commencement of the tenancy, but the readings are extraordinarily high in comparison to premises where methamphetamine has been manufactured, and premises where it has been unequivocally established that methamphetamine use must have occurred during the tenancy.

At the rehearing, the tenants tried to get compensation for the landlord allegedly allowing them to live in a home contaminated by methamphetamine.

The tenants asked for $4000 in exemplary damages, and also wanted the landlord to backpay all their rent.

[The landlord put] myself, my partner and my newborn child in a very dangerous and unhealthy situation by renting us a house that ... came back with extremely high readings of methamphetamine, the tenants application said

The tenants submitted that since meth contamination can remain on a surface for years, the high levels of contamination could have occurred before the start of the tenancy. The landlord did not test the house for meth before the tenants moved in.

Envirocheck forensic consultants cleaning a meth contaminated property in Auckland in 2011. (File photo)

Steens found Mr Brookings evidence logical and compelling.

I accept the proposition that methamphetamine contaminants could have precipitated prior to the tenancy and subsisted in the premises in high concentrations since then. I was close to the point of concluding that the landlord had failed to establish its claim.

However, the landlord then called a witness, whose evidence Steens says satisfied me that methamphetamine contamination occurred at the premises during the tenancy.

In his ruling, Steens said the witness said the windows of the property were covered with film, security cameras were installed outside the property, and strong chemical odours were expelled from the premises on a regular basis (like fly spray or petrol).

The witness reported many gang members (with gang patches) and other undesirable people visited the premises.

These were undesirable because they would intimidate ... some sitting in their cars ... others loitering, or yelling, using coarse language or jesting obscenely, and others visiting the premises to collect suspicious packages.

The witness also said they saw car number plates being changed at the house, along with other suspicious activity.

The police were called to the premises on more than one occasion, and at least once the armed offenders squad were called to the premises.

Brooking said he has never smoked meth and never saw it at the property. He said he was absent in the weeks leading up to the end of the tenancy and allowed others to stay at the property.

Steens said the witnesss evidence, which he had placed considerable weight on, went against Brookings claims.

think it more probable than not that methamphetamine use, or production, occurred at the premises throughout the tenancy, not just in the final weeks before termination.

Steens ordered Brooking and Hodges to pay the full cost of the decontamination, as well as the full measure of exemplary damages $1800.

I am of the view the full measure of exemplary damages is required to bring home to the tenants that the tribunal has found that committing unlawful behaviour has consequences.

The award also serves to deter others from similar, unacceptable conduct.

The landlord gave evidence of how the tenants unlawful activity has cost him a great deal financially and has caused him a great deal of stress and hardship.


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