A landlord in New Zealand has run up against an unusual problem while trying to make his tenant pay $900 for rubbish removal: diplomatic immunity.A landlord in New Zealand has run up against an unusual problem while trying to make his tenant pay $900 for rubbish removal: diplomatic immunity.A landlord in New Zealand has run up against an unusual problem while trying to make his tenant pay $900 for rubbish removal: diplomatic immunity.
New Zealand’s tenancy tribunal has dismissed the claim after finding the tenant to be a state and thus protected by sovereign immunity.“Here the claim is filed against the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in New Zealand. It must follow that the claim is in fact a claim against a state, the People’s Republic of China,” records from the tribunal in September say.
The adjudicator, Rex Woodhouse, found that the arrangement between the landlord and tenant fell outside the usual protections afforded to landlords in New Zealand.Exceptions to sovereign immunity include disputes that are commercial. Because renting a home was “incidental to the daily life of the diplomat” and profit was not being made from the arrangement, the exclusion was not upheld.
“I am not persuaded that the rental of a residential dwelling to an embassy would be commercial in nature, as the common law around diplomatic or sovereign immunity would consider it.”Representatives of New Zealand’s foreign affairs and trade ministry were granted a right of appearance at the hearing, while neither of the parties in the dispute attended. Neither the embassy nor the People’s Republic of China waived their immunity.
“It was definitely a quirk we didn’t see coming,” landlord, Chris Chandler, told local news outlet Stuff.He said that he believed the total amount of NZ$960 (AU$900) would have been “immaterial” to the Chinese mission. Tribunal records show an embassy representative “knew nothing” about the claims made by Chandler.
Chandler said he would not rent property to embassies again.“No more diplomats, and according to our property manager, that’s the advice he gives to others in the same area as well,” he told Stuff.The case follows another dispute over property rented to embassy staff in New Zealand. In 2018, landlords were warned not to rent to diplomats after the deputy head of mission for the EU’s delegation in New Zealand, Eva Tvarozkova, was cleared from paying $20,000 to cover unpaid rent and damage to a property she rented in Wellington.
Tvarozkova was initially ordered to pay the money she owed to landlord, Matthew Ryan, but was later found to be exempted by diplomatic immunity. At the time, Ryan said the decision regarding the Slovakian diplomat was “a travesty”.In Canada, Ontario’s supreme court ruled in 2018 that the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations did not apply to commercial transactions by diplomats in their host country.