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April 29, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Tribunal Finds Faults in Ground, Landlord

A Wellington landlord is refusing to pay compensation awarded by the Tenancy Tribunal to four tenants he “consciously misled” over earthquake risks to their flat.

Lucy Arbuckle was awarded $1641, and her three flatmates $2116 to split between them, after the Tribunal ruled against Craig Relph, sole director of Portfolio Property Management. Relph had falsely claimed that the building met standards, failed to display a warning notice, and did not inform the tenants about the extent of strengthening work required.

Relph has said he does not agree with the Tribunal decision, and has no ability to pay as Portfolio has nil profit. However, staff at a backpackers owned by Relph and managed by Portfolio have said that the company is trading and Relph has a history of refusing Tenancy Tribunal orders.

In 2009, the Wellington District Court issued Relph with a garnishee summons to repay bond he had refused to refund to two former tenants, despite being ordered to do so by the Tenancy Tribunal. Garnishee summons allow the court to access money owed through a third party, such as from the debtor’s bank account.

The three original flatmates had signed the lease for the flat at 280 Cuba St in March 2012. They were informed minor strengthening work needed to be done, to the façade of the building only. However, when Lucy Arbuckle joined the flat in August 2012, her parents discovered that an ‘orange sticker’ which had been issued in 2008 still applied to the flat.

An orange sticker indicates that a building is earthquake-prone, meaning it is likely to collapse, causing injury or death, in a moderate earthquake. It means that the building has to be fixed or demolished by a certain date.

The flatmates then attempted to terminate their lease, but Portfolio refused, claiming that the building met earthquake standards.

However, the building has been a known earthquake risk since 1999 and owners have been issued with several notices by the Council to have it strengthened or demolished. In 2009, the Tenancy Tribunal criticised Relph as the owner for “putting [tenants’] lives at risk”, as he had failed to get a compliance certificate for the building. In 2011, three tenants from the building also went to the Tribunal to terminate their lease after learning about the orange sticker.

Relph has criticised the Tribunal’s decision, claiming that the building is not a risk and that the tenants had lied about the orange sticker not being displayed.

“No-one has ever died in an earthquake-prone building… There seems to be a culture of people, that enjoys … removing such signs for
their own benefit… I know that they have no problems with lying to you or even the courts,” said Relph.

Students with tenancy disputes can lodge an application at

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Comments (3)

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  1. Sharyn Hunt says:

    Good thing the tenancy tribunal also has the teeth to eventually extract money from this man.

  2. Paul says:

    Sadly it doesn’t, he has many other judgements outstanding against his company and claims to have no income to pay them with. Yet he continues to lease a raft of properties around town and the Lodge in the City remains open.

    Probably Wellington’s worst landlord, avoid him and his substandard properties at all costs

  3. John says:

    Craig Relph is the worst Landlord in Wellington and still amazes me how he keeps getting around garnishee and all his tenancy tribunal orders without paying a cent!! He puts all his properties into Trusts so he is not personally liable and when court orders for payment is issued, he liquidates the companies. He drives around in his BMW, his wife has a Mercedes and he declares he has no income!!! Come on, he’s a financial beneficiary and able to gift himself an income!!! The Community Law Centre should issue the biggest lawsuit against this guy and have all his tenants come forward with their court orders etc to ensure this guy finally compensates all his tenants especially since he has outstanding orders from 2007. Wouldn’t that be great to see, food for thought!!

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