Cannabis growing operation leads to eviction

A Tauranga tenant has been evicted after a routine property inspection by the landlord found cannabis plants and growing equipment in three areas of a rental property at Papamoa Beach.

Landlord, Realty Focus, applied to the Tenancy Tribunal for termination of the tenancy held by Dion Annan for unlawful use of the premises and exemplary damages and was awarded $600.

The landlord found a black tent in bedroom two. Inside were fans, lights and drying racks, buckets and boxes. Cut cannabis leaves were in a box suggesting there had been a recent harvest. In the walk-in wardrobe to the master bedroom there were three plants growing with lighting, a heater and fan. In the hot water cupboard on top of the cylinder were seedlings in tray.

Having been caught with the cannabis, Annan told the tribunal the property manager failed to give him notice of her inspection, so she went into the house unlawfully. He says the property manager’s failure to call the police about the cannabis was because she knew she had entered unlawfully.

He also claimed there was no cannabis and having indoor gardening equipment is not illegal. He did, however confirm he had previously told the landlord he had grown cannabis in the past for use in edible foods for clients with cancer.

The landlord says she decided not to report the incident to the police because she believed they would have been unlikely to lay charges. Adjudicator Ruth Lee says it would have been preferable to have reported the incident. “It is not for her to assess what action the police may or may not take.”

Annan also told the tribunal he was served with two breach notices for lawns not mown and no battery in the smoke alarm, but no mention was made of any unlawful activity. He says the cannabis evidence must then be disregarded.

However, the tribunal says the landlord’s entry for an inspection lawful as she had emailed Annan notice of the intended entry, with the required prior notice.

“I do not accept the landlord’s inspection was a breach of Annan’s privacy,” says Lee. “She was able to take photographs of contents of boxes and in some cases the ‘bird’s eye view’ angle meant the contents of boxes could be seen. “A criminal charge and conviction is not required for the tribunal to establish an unlawful use of the premises.

“The breach is not capable of remedy because the activity cannot be undone. Even so, Annan had plenty of warning. Two re-inspections were conducted so he could to remove the growing equipment but he did not do this and merely placed it in taped boxes.

“It would be inequitable to refuse to terminate the tenancy.” Lee says there is some level of social stigma although growing cannabis for medicinal purposes has more social acceptance but must be done lawfully  - if that is what was occurring. There is a strong public interest in deterring tenants from conducting unlawful activities in tenancy premises.”

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