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However, their relationship broke down and Esguerra took Jha to the Tenancy Tribunal, claiming he harassed her.
At one stage, he came to the door, where they argued about the painting on her ceiling. Esguerra said she asked him to leave, but he put his foot between the door and the jamb so she could not close it. She reported the incident to the police.
Ten days later, Jha sent her “abusive” emails, she said. He said she had an “ugly face and character” and called her “psycho” and “ugly and depressed”.
In other messages, he called her a “mentally r——- woman” and told her she “needed to see a doctor”, the tribunal heard.
She felt “dehumanised, threatened [and] suffered low self-esteem” and lost weeks of sleep over the incidents, she said.
She also produced notes from her doctor referring to her anxiety and stress.
In response, Jha said Esguerra had “reciprocated” his abuse.
He produced emails she had sent him, reading: “You behave like a monkey – very uneducated” and “I know why your wife left you and your children because you are verbally abusive lol.”
Jha also said he did not go inside during the confrontation over the painting, but spoke to Esguerra from outside the house.
Tribunal adjudicator Aneterea Andrew Aiolupotea found it was more likely than not that Jha had harassed Esguerra.
He ordered him to pay her $638 ($NZD700) in damages for harassment and $455 for unlawful entry.
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“Tenants should be able to feel secure and safe in their property and it is in the public interest that tenants are not harassed by their landlords,” Aiolupotea wrote.
According to the decision, the building was also an illegal dwelling – it was only consented as an office and not for residential use.
It did not have a window in the bedroom – a breach of Housing Improvement Regulations – and it had “inadequate” ventilation in the kitchen, Esguerra said.
However, she did not seek a rent refund – she said she had been “reasonably comfortable” living at the property and there was no evidence of it being in an “unreasonable” state of repair.
The tribunal awarded her a rent reduction of $18 per week for the four years she had lived there, totalling $4369.
For her part, Esguerra was ordered to pay nearly $455 to Jha for rent arrears, cleaning and minor repairs.