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Landlord ordered to pay tenant $1500 for disconnecting power to property

Landlord ordered to pay tenant $1500 for disconnecting power to property
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A NSW landlord has been ordered to pay their tenant $1500 for breaching the tenant’s “quiet enjoyment” after switching off power at their property.

In a claim filed in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the tenant — who had lived in the one-bedroom Nowra unit since 2004 — claimed his landlords breached several of their obligations when they switched off the power to the property twice last year and entered the property without notice to do so.

By disconnecting the power, the tenant also claimed the landlords interfered with his quiet enjoyment, and his peace, comfort, and privacy.

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The landlords denied all breaches and rejected the tenant’s claims for compensation.

The tribunal heard the landlords purchased the property in 2020 and the tenant remained in the property on a periodic agreement.

Despite also agreeing to vacate the property by July last year, the tenant remained.

On November 11, 2022, the landlords issued a notice of termination on the basis the property was “unsafe and not fit to live in” due to faulty electricals.

Six days later, the landlords disconnected the electricity by removing the main fuse. They also locked the power box.

The electricity was restored the next day at the expense of the tenant.

On November 21, the tribunal made orders that the landlords were not to interfere with the supply of electricity or other utilities to the premises and that they were not to access the premises without the consent of the tenant.

However, those orders did not name the current landlords as the respondents.

On November 23, the landlords disconnected the electricity a second time.

Later that day, electricity was reconnected by energy company Endeavour Energy.

Following the second disconnection, the electrician who restored power confirmed “testing results were all within requirements and no faulty equipment was detected” and “from a safety point of view there was no reason for the wiring to be disconnected”.

In their response to the claim, the landlords claimed they disconnected the power the second time for the same reason they did the first time.

That defence was rejected by the tribunal.

“The circumstances surrounding the second disconnection were completely different to the first disconnection,” General Member of the Tribunal Graham Kinsey said in his decision earlier this year.

“I accept the tenant’s submission. The landlords ignored the testing sticker on the inside of the meter box which confirmed the circuits were safe.

“There is no evidence the electricity was dangerous or there was an emergency. Accordingly, the landlords required the tenant’s consent for access to the premises.

“I am not satisfied the landlords interfered with the supply of electricity on 23 November 2022 to avoid danger to the tenants or to enable maintenance or repairs to be carried out.

“I am satisfied the landlords interfered with the tenant’s reasonable peace comfort and privacy on 23 November 2023 by removing the meter and thereby disconnecting the electricity supply.”

Claims dismissed

The tenant’s claim in relation to the first disconnection of power was dismissed on the basis “the landlords interfered with the supply of electricity … to avoid danger to the tenant and to carry out maintenance or repairs.”

“The landlords claimed the property was unsafe and not fit to live in due to the faulty electrical supply. The tenant said he did not receive the notice,” Kinsey said.

“I find on the balance of probabilities, there was a dangerous electrical fault which posed a risk to the tenant’s safety.

“The evidence persuades me the landlords were genuinely concerned about the state of the electrical supply and took reasonable steps to address the issue on 17 November 2022.”

For the six hours the tenant was without power on the second disconnection, the landlords were ordered to pay him $1500.

“I assess the damages for non-economic loss for the landlords’ interference with the tenant’s reasonable peace, comfort and privacy on 23 November 2022 at $1500.00.”

The tenant submitted the appropriate compensation for the second disruption was $4500 but that amount was “excessive”, Kinsey said.

“I accept the tenant suffered anxiety and distress, but the inescapable fact is the electricity supply was off for a relatively short period,” he said.

The tenant made several other submissions, including claims the landlords disconnected the electricity to force him to vacate the property and that they breached their obligations by failing to repair flood damage to the home that occurred before they purchased the property.

For all the claims, he submitted for compensation of more than $14,500 in total. The other claims were dismissed.

The tenancy ended on 21 December 2022.

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