Landlord slept in tent under tenant’s home, refused to leave

A landlord was ordered to pay damages to his tenant for unlawful entry. Photo / 123rf

A landlord who pitched a tent under his rental property and slept in it overnight didn’t take kindly to being asked to leave.

Instead of packing up and moving on Brian Clement verbally insulted his tenants and came up with excuses as to why he was under the Raglan house.

Clement’s tenant and partner, whose names are suppressed, told the Tenancy Tribunal how the landlord repeatedly came “unannounced and overstayed” for up to three days at a time.

“The more the visits the more it disturbed our sense of privacy at home,” the girlfriend told the tribunal, which has now ordered Clement to pay damages for unlawful entry.

Over two years, she had seen Clement at the house at least 15 times, and he stayed overnight seven times.

One night in February 2021, Clement was at the house and had refused the tenant’s demands to leave, according to a decision released in June.

The tenant was away and his girlfriend and her daughter were alone at home.

“I cannot express how uncomfortable and weird I felt that night,” the girlfriend said.

“I sent Brian a message as I could hear him around the house and asked him once more to leave.”

She also called Clement twice. He answered with “verbal insults”, saying he was “just under the house catching the internet Wi-Fi”.

She thought the man would sleep in his car, but realized the next morning that he had pitched a tent under the house and slept there.

A neighbor confirmed the account, saying it was “unnerving” and even felt “unsafe at the time”.

She described the tenant-landlord relationship as “unusual and always ‘gray'”.

The tenants had been renting the property for more than 10 years, she said, and Clement “appeared to come and go” from the property, staying overnight a number of times.

The arrangement seemed to work for both parties until late 2020, when the relationship deteriorated.

Clement admitted staying overnight, but argued the tent was for keeping his tools and he only slept in it for one night.

He told the tribunal his rental agreement gave him, as owner, “access at all times, with reasonable notice, for upgrading, repairs … etc.”

The rental agreement also said: “House may need to be vacated by [the tenant] for occasional visits and staying of friends “.

In its decision, the Tenancy Tribunal said the agreement was “entirely contrary” to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and had no effect.

Under the Act, a landlord cannot enter the property during the rental period except with the consent of the tenant, in an emergency, or with minimum notice given.

Nothing in the Act allows a landlord to enter the premises without meeting these criteria, nor allows the landlord to require tenants to move out for periods of time so the landlord or friends could use the tenancy.

“Importantly, even if a tenant has given consent to the landlord to enter the
premises, the tenant is able to withdraw that consent at any time, and if consent is withdrawn, then the landlord would need to leave immediately, “tribunal adjudicator Rex Woodhouse said.

Clement was ordered to pay $ 700 in damages to the tenant for unlawful entry, and another $ 1000 for the property having no or ineffective underfloor insulation.

“There is a very strong interest for tenants, landlords and the public generally, to ensure tenancies are safe and secure, and tenants being able to preclude landlords from entering or staying on the premises falls within that expectation,” Woodhouse said.

Advocacy group Renters United says tenants can go to the police if they are being harassed or threatened by their landlords.

“But the convoluted way of going to the Tenancy Tribunal is the only way for tenants to access their rights,” said president Georgie Rogers, even though they are naturally unwilling to do so because it can hurt the tenant-landlord relationship.

Tenants could also get named and blacklisted if their claims are unsuccessful, which is an issue for every right they want to uphold, he said.


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