To smell a dead rat: Tenant wins stinking rodent corpse dispute
A man who took property managers to court in a dispute about dead rats has won a payout.
Stuart MacIntosh's case triggered a smell test last year, involving pest experts and a special "site visit" from Wellington Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator Brent Smallbone.
MacIntosh moved into the Aro Valley house last February. But things soon turned putrid, and he told managers Quinovic that a "nauseating smell" was wafting from one or more suspected rat corpses.
The tribunal said Quinovic ignored advice from PestProof (PPL) experts who offered to place bait stations for the price of $80 plus GST each quarter.
"If there is a dead rat carcass of some type, it will decay and the smell will disappear soon," the property manager told MacIntosh in March.
But the rancid smell resurfaced in September, MacIntosh said, as his unwanted house guests expired after squeezing into crawlspaces, walls or the ceiling.
MacIntosh told Quinovic there were rats scampering around, "and the noise of what sounded like a rat giving birth".
"He complained of a rotting smell that he believed to be a rotting rat placenta," Smallbone wrote in the tribunal decision.
MacIntosh claimed inadequate property management enabled the rodents to move in, and a tribunal hearing went ahead on October 18, in which MacIntosh claimed three weeks' rent.
But the subjective nature of smell meant a field trip was the only way to confirm whether the property truly stank.
The next day, two PPL employees familiar with the house visited with Smallbone and Quinovic staff.
One PPL worker could not smell a rat. But the other reported a definite carcass stench.
In his order, Smallbone said Quinovic responded promptly each time MacIntosh alerted it about rat smells.
But the firm was chided for not heeding pest controllers' advice. "It is a fact that Quinovic did not do what PPL recommended to avoid rats dying in the premises."
There were three times when MacIntosh had problems with the dying rat stench, Smallbone decided.
Because the smell affected only part of the house, he awarded two-thirds of the amount sought, ordering Quinovic to pay $526.44.
This week, MacIntosh said he was largely satisfied with the outcome, but the saga made him somewhat "averse" to dealing with property management companies.
He advised other tenants trapped in disputes to take grievances to the tribunal.
The Quinovic property manager confirmed on Thursday that the company had paid MacIntosh.
"It is what it is. The adjudicator ruled. What they ruled, they ruled."
MacIntosh said he would stay at the property, at least for now.