The Tenancy Tribunal heard nine cases involving a Hamilton landlord in the last two years, awarding $15,121 to the tenants.
All the cases were against Angela Robb and involved disputes at her Hamilton properties: a five-bedroom house at 9 Carson Cres, Silverdale and her place at 154 Comries Rd, Chartwell.
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On June 7, the tribunal heard tenant applicants Mei Fan, Gongzhe Li, Liyuan Zhang, XueHui Zhou and Xiao Cai as tenants v Robb.
“This was an application by the tenants for refund of money paid in advance, money for bond and other claims,” the tribunal said.
Robb filed a cross-application for rent arrears, abandonment and damages.
There was no written tenancy agreement and all the terms were verbally agreed, the tribunal said, noting how an interpreter attended that hearing.
“This tenancy was for a five-bedroom house and basement area, with two
bathrooms upstairs and one in the basement. The rooms were rented out individually.
The landlord claimed that she lived at the premises. The tenants said that since
the start of the tenancy the landlord had not stayed a night,” that decision said.
Three of the tenants had their own room and two shared a room in the
basement. Although this was disputed by the landlord, the evidence provided by
the tenants of a translated WeChat conversation supported their claim that the
separate basement area was rented out to two of the tenants as a couple.
Each tenant started heir tenancy on a different date and paid different weekly rent and different bond amounts. The tenants applied to be heard together but the tribunal said it could only hear one claim at a time and there were four different tenancy agreements.
Robb told the tribunal she stayed at the place occasionally to do the lawns but the tenants disputed that. The tribunal noted the Residential Tenancies Act did not apply when the premises were used during the tenancy as the landlords’ principal place of residence.
But the tribunal said even if Robb stayed there one day a week, it was not her principal place of residence and was not a boarding house.
On October 31 the tribunal issued its decision in the case brought by Liyuan Zhang v Robb. The landlord was ordered to pay the tenant $2388.01.
The tribunal told how matters unfolded to the point where police were called during a dispute.
“Mr Zhang has made an application for the refund of his bond, the repayment of rent
that he claims he paid in advance, compensation for his being forced to leave the
property and find alternate accommodation and the return of a copy of his passport he claims he gave to Ms Robb for identification purposes. Mr Zhang has
confirmed that he is not seeking exemplary damages,” the tribunal said in that case.
Although Robb filed a cross-application for abandonment, rent arrears and compensation, the adjudicator ruled in the tenant’s favour.
The ruling also noted how tribunal adjudicators had heard other applications on the same property recently. The adjudicators found the place was a non-residential boarding house tenancy so the act applied, the ruling said.
Zhang told the tribunal of Robb’s allegedly “aggressive behaviour and unpredictability, that the tenants took refuge in their individual rooms after which Ms Robb banged on their doors making threats of eviction.”
The tenants called the police, he said, but Robb denied that occurred and said while the tenants “went into their rooms it was because they did not want to engage with her about their responsibility for outstanding rent and utility payment.”
The tribunal said it was, however, agreed that the police arrived and spoke to parties involved.
On October 2, the tribunal ruled in Gongzhe Li v Robb, ordering her to pay the tenant $2264.87.
“Mr Li has applied for rent arrears, compensation for costs directly associated with
the unlawful termination of the tenancy, a refund of the bond paid, and
reimbursement of the filing fee following the end of the tenancy,” that ruling said.
Robb cross-appealed seeking rent until the end of the fixed term and cleaning costs. The tribunal noted how there was no tenancy agreement in writing and it was agreed that Li would rent a room and share common facilities for $130/week.
The agreement was struck online via WeChat. The tenancy ended in March when the locks were changed and Li and other occupants could no longer enter.
A landlord must not require a bond of more than four weeks, must lodge that with the Bond Centre, must be given a written receipt for any rent paid by cash and not require more than two weeks in advance, the tribunal ruled in that case.
On August 16, the tribunal issued its decision after Shuyun Liu brought a case against Robb over a dispute about the rent. That matter was over failure to lodge a bond, taking unlawful security and requiring more than two week’s rent in advance.
On the same day of August 16, the tribunal ruled in Yunhao Fu, v Robb. There, it revisited a case from July over an order than the landlord must repay the tenant $699.10 in overpaid rent, bond refund and filing fee. But Robb had applied for a rehearing on the grounds that language and comprehension issues prevented her fully presenting her case at the hearing.
On July 11, the tribunal ruled in Shuyun Liu v Robb, ordering she repay the tenant $3290.44. That was to refund an electricity bond, refunding a cleaning bond, for her failure to lodge a bond, taking unauthorised security, requiring more than two week’s rent in advance, breach of quiet enjoyment and filing fees.
Robb made an application for rent for the remainder of a year but the tribunal refused that. Again, the tribunal noted communication between the parties via WeChat but it also said Robb had fundamentally breached her obligations as a landlord and noted her “frequent visits to the property without prior agreement or notice”.
On July 11, the tribunal issued its decision in the matter of Yunhao Fu v Robb, ordering her to pay the tenant $699 for rent overpayment, bond refund and filing fee reimbursement.
On July 9 last year, the tribunal heard tenants Kai Zhu, Zheyue Hu, Chen Lin and Cong Ding v Robb over disputes renting 154 Comries Rd, Chartwell, Hamilton.
Robb was ordered to pay the tenants $5780.44 to refund their bond deposit, refund cleaning bonds and filing fee reimbursements.
“The tenants all came from China and moved into a property that had from four to six people staying in it, with their own room and shared facilities. This appears to be a boarding house tenancy. The tenants explained they were not boarders but tenants who cooked for themselves and paid their own costs such as food and electricity,” the tribunal said.
An electricity bill for the premises that was addressed to one of the tenants was supplied as evidence of that. A translated copy of a tenancy agreement that was originally written in Chinese was also provided. The tenants confirmed that they had signed the original copy that was written in Mandarin.
In a ninth case, Robb subsequently applied to the tribunal on July 27 last year for a rehearing of the matter heard earlier that month.
“Ms Robb stated that her son had lived at the premises when the tenants were there and had new evidence, being two letters from an employer and a friend, supporting this. She believed the tenancy was flatmates.
Her application for a re-hearing was dismissed.