A pair of Sydney tenants have been forced to pay their landlords $3000 for “abandoning” a rental property they found to have cockroaches.
They were required to pay the sum for breaking the lease after only four days and ended up in the Civil and Administrative Tribunal of New South Wales.
The renters were seeking the return of their $3000 bond and a holding deposit of $1000 they paid to secure the property, and the two landlords were after compensation.
The lease started on April 28 2023, for a fixed-term of 12 months, at an inner-city address, NCAT heard.
The tribunal was told there was no evidence of cockroaches or other pests when the landlords’ property manager did an inspection before the tenants moved in.
Two days after the inspection and condition report that resulted, the renters went into the home and noticed “tiny insects and small cockroaches” in the linen cupboard, living area, main bedroom, second bedroom and main bathroom.
“The insects were seen on the walls, doors, skirting boards, carpets and in the toilets,” member Ross Glover heard, outlined in his published decision.
Evidence tendered to the tribunal included six videos of dead and alive cockroaches and a photo of one of the creatures in a toilet.
The renters emailed the property agent on April 29, the day after collecting the keys, to say they were not comfortable having their crawling baby in the house.
The tenants argued that the property was uninhabitable and not what they signed up for.
“I am writing to formally pull out of the lease and wanting to understand what the repercussions are for us,” a tenant said in the email.
A pest controller was offered but the tenant said they did not think it could be resolved that way. They handed back the keys on May 1 and asked for their bond and holding fee to be repaid.
Two days later, a pest controller went to the home and a “small amount of activity” was located and treated, the tribunal heard.
The tenants were told by the property manager that because they had left the property, it was regarded as a lease break.
“The property has been inspected by a registered pest control company and they could find no evidence of a pest infestation in the property and as such the landlord views the claim of uninhabitable due to an infestation of pest as without merit,” the property manager said in an email shown to the tribunal.
Mr Glover found the tenants were not entitled to vacate the home, it did not pose “significant health or safety risks” and that it was empty for another four weeks before it was leased again to new tenants.
Mr Glover said that although he found the tenants had genuine beliefs around the pests and suitability of the home, it did not justify exercising discretion over the landlord to leave.
He said although he accepted the renters found pests, he was not satisfied the evidence showed an “infestation” or that it meant the property was “not reasonably clean” when the tenancy started.
“I am not satisfied on the evidence before the tribunal that the nature and extent of the pests that were found the premises were to such a level so as to render them uninhabitable in the sense that they could not be occupied safely and with a reasonable degree of comfort having regard to contemporary standards,” he said.
Mr Glover explained in his decision that the law provides a basis for tenants to end a tenancy through the tribunal, but does not entitle them to terminate it themselves.
Nine has elected not to name the parties in the publicly published decision.