New Zealand Law Society - Application made against company over tenancy in quake-prone building

Application made against company over tenancy in quake-prone building

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An application has been submitted to the Tenancy Tribunal against a property company for unlawfully renting parts of a central Wellington building that was badly damaged during last November’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake to a family.

The building at 61 Molesworth St was demolished over a period of weeks. It was believed to be empty but tenants were found to be living there illegally.  

The application by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) seeks an order preventing Prime Property Group Ltd from committing an unlawful act of the same kind for the full six years available under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.

It also seeks an order for the rent paid by the tenant, totalling over $6,000, to be repaid, exemplary damages of the maximum of $1000 for entering into a prohibited transaction, and repayment of the filing fee and any witness expenses.

The application comes on the back of an investigation by the Ministry’s Tenancy Compliance and Investigations team.

“When the 61 Molesworth St building was evacuated after the November 2016 earthquake, it came to light that people were living in what appeared to be a commercial building,” says Steve Watson, the team’s manager.

“Our team then began an investigation and subsequently found that since June 2016, the first floor office space had been rented to a residential tenant.

“The kitchen and cubicles were being used as bedrooms, the toilet was in a corridor through the fire exit, and the family was using a shower on the ground floor of the building.

“While there was no written Tenancy Agreement in place, both parties have stated that $300 rent was paid per week for the tenancy,” Mr Watson says.