A dodgy landlord who allowed human excrement to repeatedly flow into an up-market newsagency might wish he’d cleaned up sooner.
A dodgy landlord who allowed human excrement to repeatedly flow into an up-market newsagency might wish he’d cleaned up sooner.

Tenants’ $400k fight over newsagency sewage flood

A sketchy Melbourne landlord who allowed human faeces and water to repeatedly flood an Elsternwick newsagency has been forced to cough up $400,000 in compensation.

Tony and Louise Browne, directors of the Mr Pickwick's newsagency in Glenhuntly Road, leased their retail premises from landlord Habib Ajaimi between 2011 and 2019 with dreams of operating an "up-market" business similar to their Gardenvale Authorised Newsagency in Brighton, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

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The couple built a reputation for selling "higher quality" goods, cards, magazines and gifts and dreamt of expanding their business.

But water ingresses caused by heavy rains and leaks from the upstairs apartment on 34 occasions, beginning soon after they moved in, ruined stock and created massive clean-up bills.

Sewage and toilet paper also repeatedly flooded the store, creating a stench.

And customers complained about the smell and were forced to return water damaged goods, causing deep embarrassment to the business owners, the tribunal heard.

Judge Pamela Jenkins said photos painted a "vivid picture" of the damage, and the tenants, both at their wit's end, had told the tribunal of their "despair" at Mr Ajaimi's failure to rectify the problem despite repeated complaints.

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Mr Ajaimi refused to compensate the couple for much of their lost stock, including more than $6000 worth of Christmas cards and other seasonal items following a flood just days before Christmas in 2017.

And evidence tendered by a building industry expert revealed "extensive" historical illegal building works and noncompliance had resulted in the leaks plaguing the couple's business.

"In my view, the evidence is compelling that (Mr Ajaimi) made repeated promises to cause plumbing repairs to be performed," Ms Jenkins said.

"In fact, repairs were either not effected as promised or were entirely inadequate."

The tribunal heard the premises was now in an "appalling state".

Ms Jenkins ordered Mr Ajaimi pay the couple $399,405 in costs, damages and interest.

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rebecca.dinuzzo@news.com.au

Originally published as Tenants' $400k sh.t fight over newsagency sewage flood


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