Landlord's 'DIY approach' to pest control lands tenant in hospital

Posted on September 17th, 2022.

A landlord who “stealthily” carried out a fumigation, leaving an unwitting tenant with headaches and nausea, has been ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal to pay his tenants $933.

The tribunal heard that the landlord, Graham Dyce, let the Nelson home in 2018, after his mother, the owner, moved into residential care. His new tenants, the Sui family, were new in the country; their rent would help cover the care home bills.

The family of eight experienced an “ongoing challenge with mice and ants”, and later, a “cockroach infestation”, the tribunal heard.

The tribunal ruling noted a “lack of proactive attention” from the tenants over the pests. However, the cockroaches appeared later in the tenancy, demonstrating they were not due to a change in the tenants’ behaviour.

Dyce took a “DIY approach” to the infestation, making several attempts to fumigate the house, the tribunal heard. The tenants, who had to leave the house each time it was sprayed, told Dyce his methods weren’t working.

Some of the fumigation efforts were made “stealthily”, which meant tenants weren’t able to protect surfaces and items, the tribunal heard.

On one occasion, a tenant, unaware that Dyce had fumigated the home, entered the property. Complaining of nausea and headaches, she was taken to hospital.

The police became involved. When they contacted the landlord, Dyce told them he had fumigated the house that day with a bug spray containing the insecticide pyrethroid.

The tenants produced a medical record from the hospital, showing a diagnosis of “noxious inhalation with mild side effects”.

Dyce terminated the tenancy and lodged a Tenancy Tribunal claim, requesting about $11,000 compensation for pest control, rent arrears and water damage. The Suis also applied, seeking $5300 for damages, including several claims of unlawful entry by the landlord.

The tribunal rejected Dyce’s claim for rent arrears. During the tenancy, he had raised the rent, and the tenants objected, continuing to pay the old amount. The tribunal ruled the increase was considered “excessively above market rent”.

Dyce’s claim for damages was also thrown out. While he claimed the “significant renovation and repair” at the end of the tenancy was to address the cockroach infestation, the tribunal found no evidence that the amount of work he’d completed was necessary.

Dyce was apportioned costs for a small portion of the labour, which was deducted from the amount his tenants were awarded.

The Sui family was awarded $993.


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