Auckland tenant compensated after house paint causes ‘severe’ blistering to feet

An Auckland landlord used outdoor paint inside his rental during lockdown, when it was difficult to obtain supplies on Waiheke Island.

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An Auckland landlord used outdoor paint inside his rental during lockdown, when it was difficult to obtain supplies on Waiheke Island.

An Auckland tenant has been compensated $4000 after suffering “severe” skin reactions because her landlord used outdoor paint on floors, despite warnings.

According to a Tenancy Tribunal decision, landlord Gary Kirkland-Smith had some outdoor paint leftover and decided to use it on the floor of his Waiheke Island rental.

The tribunal heard the tenant suffered from swelling and pain in her feet, as well as hayfever-like symptoms, as a result.

The woman, whose name is suppressed, said her symptoms were worse during the summer months because there was direct sunlight all afternoon on the paint.

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Her symptoms included an itchy face, irritated eyes, asthma, headaches, nausea and fatigue.

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She said she had to leave the house most afternoons to get relief.

The tenant gave Kirkland-Smith a 14-day notice to fix the floors. She provided evidence of doctors’ visits, including to the emergency department, due to the blisters and swelling she had on her feet.

However, according to the tribunal’s decision, the landlord did not want to remove the paint from the floors.

Kirkland-Smith maintained he had not done anything illegal by painting interior floors with exterior paint.

He told the tribunal he had used a machine that detected volatile organic compounds and found nothing. However, the tenant argued the machine was not calibrated for the right kind of chemicals.

The tenant tried putting down rugs to alleviate the issue, but she said during hot summer months she still felt ill.

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The tenant tried putting down rugs to alleviate the issue, but she said during hot summer months she still felt ill.

The tribunal heard the tenant ultimately left the house and lived somewhere else for three weeks to allow the swelling in her feet to ease. She decided to find a new home after her condition improved.

Tribunal adjudicator Joon Yi agreed with the landlord’s argument that he had not violated the Building Code by using the paint.

However, Yi accepted that use of the paint indoors was “not recommended” by the manufacturer due to potential health risks.

Yi determined that using the paint and refusing to remove it was “unreasonable maintenance of the premises” and ordered the landlord to pay the tenant $4000.

The tenant had also applied to end her fixed-term tenancy on the grounds that she could not have foreseen the negative affect the house would have on her health.

However, Yi found the landlord had already effectively agreed to end the agreement because the landlord had said to the tenant in writing she “could move elsewhere if she wanted”.

The tenant was ordered to pay $500 to Kirkland-Smith for a bench top that had been damaged when a vase had fallen from a windowsill.

Do you have a housing issue that needs investigating? Contact jonathan.killick@stuff.co.nz



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