A New Zealand landlord who forced a single mother recovering from a brain tumour to find a new home so he could charge higher rent has been ordered to pay $5,500.
The woman said she and her two children moved into the property in Mosgiel, some 270km southeast of Queenstown, owned by landlords Roshan John Mureekal and Anu Abraham in July 2020.
Their lease was for one year and they renewed in July 2021 with increased rent, Stuff reported.
However, in July 2022 the mother told the landlords she was unable to sign for another full year as she’d been diagnosed with a brain tumour and needed surgery in November that year.
She and the two landlords agreed she could instead become a periodic tenant and pay a higher weekly rent with no fixed end date.
Two New Zealand landlords have been ordered to pay a single mother $5,500 after faking renovations to force her from their property (stock image)
However, on February 21, 2023, landlord Mureekal emailed the property manager, Property Brokers, to give the mother notice to vacate the property.
Mureekal told Property Brokers business manager Tania Simpson: ‘Give the tenants a notice to leave as I am planning to do some renovation before the new agents taking over. I assume it is 90 days’ notice.’
Simpson confirmed she would give the mother the notice but stressed it was illegal for Mureekal to lie about renovations.
‘Please note that if the property is not being renovated as you have advised and you have given the notice for the tenant to vacate due to these reasons, it is illegal, just so you are aware,’ she said.
‘Renovations mean rebuilding, repairing and upgrading areas in the house and out.’
A tribunal heard the mother was devastated by the notice after working hard to build a support network for her brain surgery.
She had befriended neighbours to help her post-surgery, settled her children into a local school and done small home improvements, including planting a garden, to help her comfortably recover as quickly as possible.
Instead, she spent a large amount of her time post-surgery trying to find a new home for her family.
She described the move as ‘very stressful’, causing her sleepless nights and extreme fatigue that affected her recovery.
A tribunal heard one of the landlords, Mureekal, told the mother to leave the home for renovations just five months after she had surgery to remove a brain tumour (stock image)
A letter from her occupational therapist to the tribunal confirmed she was not able to properly complete her rehabilitation programme due to moving stress.
The woman and her two children were able to find a home on April 24, 2023 – some five months after her surgery.
She told the tribunal she still hasn’t been able to fully unpack the new house.
Just four days after finding the new home, the woman saw the property owned by Mureekal and Abraham on Trade Me for $130 a week more than what she’d paid.
Ms Simpson said it was the second time Property Brokers had been instructed to give notice to a tenant, only to find out the landlord had transferred to a new agency and wanted to charge higher rent.
Mureekal tried to justify giving the sick mother notice by saying he had planned to do renovations to sell the house.
However, by the time she’d moved out the market had declined and it was no longer worthwhile.
He said some minor renovations had been done to the home, including carpet replacement, painting and exterior work but he could not provide any receipts or photos.
Tribunal adjudicator M Allan ultimately found Mureekal had forced the mother and her two children to leave the home so he could make more money.
‘There [is] no evidence to support any alterations, repairs, refurbishment or repairs and certainly not to the extent required. If any renovations were done at all, they were very minor and not of the extensive nature that would justify terminating a tenancy,’ Allan said.
‘The fact that the property was immediately re-listed with another agency and advertised only four days later, at an increased rental of $130, leads me to the inevitable conclusion that notice was given so that the landlord could increase the rent.’
The tribunal found Mureekal had faked the renovations after hearing the property was back on the market at a higher price just four days after she and her two children moved out (stock image)
Allan found the effect had been severe on the mother and the Mureekal’s breach of the Residential Tenancy Act was ‘at the high end.’
‘Tenants find themselves in a vulnerable position when given notice to terminate their tenancy. They must find a new home at short notice and make all of the many life adjustments that such a move entails,’ Allan said.
‘There is a strong public interest in ensuring that landlords comply with the law and only give notice when they are lawfully entitled to do so.’
Mureekal and Abraham were ordered to pay $5,500 in damages.