Methamphetamine contamination, about a tonne of belongings and rubbish, two abandoned cats, two dogs: the dire list of everything left behind after one nightmare tenancy.
Tasha McCracken was left heartbroken after she walked into her childhood Blenheim home in January to the sharp smell of chemicals and the sight of a hole in the wall.
She and her husband Jamie McCracken raised their children there after buying it from her parents, but decided to rent it out after moving to Rangiora last year for a fresh start.
It was, they say, the worst decision of their lives. Now, three months on from that scheduled maintenance inspection, the house has been decontaminated and the “tenant from hell” is gone.
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“It’s hard to put into words how it felt, it’d be easier if they had just burned the house down – now 28 years of memories have just been washed out, stripped back,” Tasha McCracken said.
“We brought our kids up there, so to see it get just absolutely trashed was horrible. I was a mess, I was spending a lot of time in Blenheim too to make sure mum wasn’t on her own.”
Her mother lived in a house at the back of the subdivided property. From the back section she had seen a revolving cast of people, including gang members, go through her old house, Tasha McCracken said.
When they got the property tested, the results came back showing residual levels of methamphetamine at 10.8 micrograms per 100cm2, more than five times Ministry of Health guidelines.
The couple was trying to sell the house at the time to afford a deposit in Rangiora, but that was scuppered by the positive meth test leaving them teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
Things were looking up now, though. Their bank had given them a “mortgage holiday”, or suspended their mortgage payments, on the Blenheim house, and the insurance company came through to cover the decontamination costs.
The tenancy tribunal, too, found in their favour. According to the McCrackens, the tenant failed to turn up to two hearings on March 21, one with them and one with Summit Property Management Blenheim.
Tasha McCracken said she contacted a letting agent friend at Summit to ask for advice about giving the tenant notice. Her friend asked who it was, and realised it was the same person she was trying to chase up for an unrelated tenancy dispute.
Coincidentally, a bricklayer Jamie McCracken was working with down in Canterbury was the landlord of that house.
Jamie McCracken said the tribunal ordered the tenant to pay about $3100 to them for unpaid rent and damage. It also took into account how much the McCrackens spent removing everything left behind.
A copy of the decision, provided to Stuff, broke the costs down to $1770 for rent arrears, $488.75 to repair a hole in the wall, $534.75 to replace a door, and $298 for rubbish removal, plus a filing fee.
Jamie McCracken estimated the tenant left close to 1000 kilograms of belongings and rubbish: furniture, beds, toys, rubbish. Along with the dogs, that were taken in by someone who knew the tenant, and the cats.
Summit Property Management Blenheim property manager Ruth Gill confirmed the tenant did not turn up to a hearing with Summit, and was ordered by the tribunal to pay about $1050 to cover the cost of replacing curtains that had to be thrown out due to methamphetamine contamination.
The tenant moved out of the Blenheim rental property managed by Summit in March last year. The company had also successful taken them to the tribunal not long after the tenancy ended for unpaid rent, Gill said.
The tenant could not be reached for comment.
Initially, the McCrackens were dubious their insurance company would cover the testing and decontamination, but they did. The initial test cost about $1600, decontamination was about $12,000 and the final test was $400.
But Jamie McCracken said their cover would not extend to the full refit: new carpet, drapes, oven, heat pump, required to get the house up to scratch before they could put it on the market. But they were confident it would sell.
“It’s now probably the cleanest house in the street – the meth is untraceable. There’s not even fly poo in there. It’s going to have fresh paint, new carpets – it’ll pretty much be brand new inside,” Tasha McCracken said.
Jamie McCracken advised landlords to include meth testing agreements in tenancy contracts.
“Make sure you screen not only the person signing the agreement but anyone else that might be living there,” he said.