NZ Herald

$140k damage: landlord says property trashed, contaminated

A LANDLORD says up to $140,000 worth of damage was done to his Auckland property after tenants contaminated it so seriously that most fittings, architraves and even paint had to be removed due to methamphetamine.

Ron Goodwin, an Auckland-based full-time landlord, had what he calls "the tenants from hell" and has released photographs to show the state of the property at Stanmore Bay in Whangaparaoa, vacated last year.

A couple who he believes weren't working and had three children moved into the house - after Barfoot & Thompson did credit checks and investigated their previous rental history - in May 2015. They were paying $500 a week, Goodwin said.

But the couple held late night parties and "undesirable acquaintances" hung around the property, he said.

They eventually left the property without notice last winter, leaving dozens of belongings behind.

Goodwin, aged in his mid-70s, then feared the worst and ordered meth tests which showed contamination.

It was so severe that light fittings, curtains and architraves, wardrobes, cabinets, cupboards, doors, carpet and even the stove and a new heat pump had to be dumped. Some paint was scraped down to bare timber to remove the contamination.

The tenants also left dozens of possessions behind including clothing heaped in piles, beds, couches, arm chairs and electronics.

Photos of the house before it was stripped show broken fixtures, floors littered with food scraps and rubbish, goods on the deck, a garage filled with furniture and electronics, a shopping trolley at the front gate and boards nailed across broken windows.

Goodwin says his insurance company, Vero, engaged its own meth testing agency and that found "contamination so extensive" that in November, everything had to be stripped. He expects about $70,000 of the damage which might cost up to $140,000 will be paid through insurance.

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Goodwin says he now has "a hollowed-out and stripped, decontaminated house" but can get no compensation from the tenants because he does not know where they are.

Work was completed on January 24, five months after the tenants left.

Goodwin is speaking out because it is the second time one of his rentals has been contaminated by P.

"It is too early to make an accurate estimate of the total cost of remediation but including my own time, it will likely finish up well in excess of $100,000," he said. estimating it could be up to $140,000.

The interior of the house was being re-painted so it could be re-let.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says Standards New Zealand will soon issue guidelines on meth contamination for landlords, managers, regulators, testers and insurers, giving guidance on how to get a consistent, effective approach for testing and fixing P-contaminated places. Consultation ended on Monday and the standard will be published in April, MBIE said this week.

It's not the first time Goodwin's tenants had roblems. A 2015 Tenancy Tribunal decision made an order against them for $1260 bond and $864 for damage to another house.

Rubbish removal, cleaning, trolley returns, landlords' time and petrol costs and dump fees were taken into account.

Kiri Barfoot, a Barfoot director, said the Tenancy Tribunal order against the couple was made after they had moved into Goodwin's property, so the company did not know of their previous rental history.

She said their previous landlord had given the couple a good written and verbal reference.

"We did not manage this property," Barfoot said.

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"Ron managed it himself. We only found tenants for him. Ron met both of the tenants before giving us his approval. These tenants had a good written reference from their current landlord at the time, written in February 2015 and a phone call was made to that landlord for confirmation.

"We also did credit checks on both the male and female tenant. They weren't working (on WINZ benefits) so [we] couldn't do any employer checks. We also checked with their previous landlord who rented to them in 2011."

Police told the Herald that because issues with the property were a "civil matter" - not criminal - they were not involved.

A Vero spokeswoman said because of privacy laws, no details of Goodwin's claim could be disclosed. But claims for P contamination had more than doubled over the past two years, which she described as a "worrying trend".

"Customers should read their policy information carefully so that they're aware of their entitlements and have met all their policy obligations in case anything goes wrong and they need to make a claim."

A spokeswoman for the Auckland Property Investors Association, of which Goodwin was a member, says the removal of the rubbish left behind had cost him $1638.

"As Ron doesn't know where the tenants are living, he cannot lodge a further [Tenancy Tribunal] claim against them for losses," the spokeswoman said.

- NZ Herald



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