A single mother who lived through a 'severe rat infestation' at a rental property with her three children has been awarded thousands of dollars in compensation.
Czerny piano books. Tenancy Tribunal Adjudicator Jack Tam awarded Victoria Kennedy $3000 on June 12 following the infestation at 100 East Tamaki Rd, in Papatoetoe.
Landlord Jalal Maqbool claimed Kennedy had 'introduced' rats to the property and said he didn't receive her messages warning him about the infestation.
- Jul 24, 2018 - Rat numbers started to decline but the family later discovered eight. Rats were the number one pest in all of Auckland's 21 local board areas.
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Adjudicator Tam did not accept Maqbool's claims, saying there was evidence rats had been there since the start of the tenancy and other signs that he knew about the infestation earlier than he claimed.
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Kennedy spoke to Stuff and said there were signs of rats when she moved into the house in September 2017.
On her first day at the property, she left a piece of bread on the table after falling asleep and woke to find parts of it had been eaten by what she assumed was a mouse.
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Over the next couple of weeks she noticed scratching and scuttling sounds coming from the walls at night.
Her children, two eight-year-old girls and a one-year-old boy, found holes in their clothes and spotted rats next to their toy boxes.
Rat faeces on the floor was another regular find at the house.
On one occasion, Kennedy locked a rat in her bathroom because she didn't want it to get into the rest of the house.
She spent the night at a friend's place and when she returned the next day she found the rat had chewed its way through the wall.
Adjudicator Tam said Kennedy had sent several text messages to Maqbool since November 2017, asking him to do something about the infestation.
Maqbool responded by hiring 'casual pest controller' Tejinder Singh Rehsi to come to the property on January 2, adjudicator Tam said.
But Tam said Maqbool 'had not engaged a professional pest controller to attend to the issues or within a reasonable time after being informed in November 2017'.
Kennedy told Stuff the rat bait that was placed around the house was not covered by any protective case.
'The exterminator just came in, he just threw it everywhere and said don't come back in the house for four hours.'
'If you just looked under my furniture you could see the poison if you reached under, you could just grab it you know?'
Rat numbers started to decline but the family later discovered eight dead rats at the house in the following weeks.
One rat died in Kennedy's bedroom, others in the kitchen and the lounge, and sometimes they would crawl into piles of clothes her children left on the floor.
More commonly they would die on the carpet leaving a furry stain, even after their bodies were removed and the area underneath the carcass was vacuumed, she said.
Tam said photographic evidence showed the 'severe inconvenience' and 'loss of amenities' Kennedy and her family suffered during their 'relatively short' tenancy.
Compensation was calculated at $200 per week by the tribunal for every week of the tenancy, starting from when she reported the rats in November 2017.
Maqbool brought the tenancy tribunal against Kennedy to claim unpaid rent - a claim Kennedy did not dispute. He was awarded $3150 in rent arrears.
She told Stuff she stopped paying rent because Maqbool would not respond to her calls about the rats.
Maqbool told Stuff he believed Kennedy had only brought the rat infestation up as a reason not to pay rent.
Maqbool disputed adjudicator Tam's finding about the pest controller he hired and said Singh had a professional licence and only used uncovered rat bait in areas that were hard to reach.
He claimed there had been no complaints of rats before or after Kennedy's tenancy.
'I think we were hard done by, by the adjudicator.'
'No one wants to take the side of the landlord.'
Rats were the number one pest in all of Auckland's 21 local board areas.
A spokeswoman for Auckland Council warned in March that a mild, humid autumn could create perfect breeding conditions for rats.
'If nothing is done, more of them will arrive on our doorsteps looking for food and shelter as the winter approaches.'
James Russell, an associate professor and pest eradication expert at the University of Auckland, said the warmer climate meant rats could grow fatter over summer and survive longer into autumn.
They are a public health hazard because of the germs they spread, Russell said.
Russell said rats were everywhere but largely stayed in green areas over summer where they went unnoticed by the public.
Cold snaps brought rats into contact with people as they sought food and shelter, Russell said.
'When we talk about a predator-free New Zealand we're not just talking about rats in the forest for birds, we're talking about rats in South Auckland.'
'It's much bigger than saving birds some place far away.'