A Canberra renter will have to pay his former landlord more than $7500 after trying unsuccessfully to blame bushfires for "substantial" smoke damage to the woman's house.
The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal ordered the payout after rejecting smoker David Oliver's suggestion and finding cigarettes to be the cause.
The tribunal's recently published decision shows Mr Oliver left the Canberra property he had rented from Victoria Hayes in January.
He had lived there for about six years, with the place freshly painted before he arrived and a condition in his tenancy agreement that there was to be no smoking inside.
But senior tribunal member Allan Anforth said a series of 53 photographs showed the paintwork was "substantially damaged" by the time Mr Oliver moved out.
"It had chips to most corners and architraves and chips to the paintwork on most walls," he wrote in his decision.
"There were holes and abrasions to most walls."
Mr Anforth described there being, among other things, brown and yellow smoke staining on the walls and a burn mark on the carpet.
Ms Hayes sought to fix the damage, personally undertaking a number of tasks that included replacing damaged curtains and repainting walls.
She lodged an application with the tribunal in May, seeking compensation for the damage and cleaning.
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In his response, in early June, Mr Oliver denied that he had been smoking in the house.
He also claimed the paintwork was of a poor standard when he moved in, despite it being reasonably new.
But Mr Anforth ultimately found Mr Oliver smoking inside was "the most likely cause" of the damage.
"The tribunal is satisfied that the staining on the walls was cigarette smoke," the senior tribunal member wrote in his decision.
"It was not there in the photos at the start of the tenancy but is there at the end of the tenancy.
"The tenant suggested that it could have been caused by the unused wood fireplace or possibly by smoke during bushfires.
"If it was caused by bushfires then the tribunal would expect to see the same issue arising in other houses in Canberra.
"The fireplace hypothesis is pure speculation without any evidence to support it."
Mr Anforth ordered Mr Oliver to pay Ms Hayes $7520.38, with most of this amount to cover the cost of cleaning and repainting the walls.
Mr Oliver's $1840 bond will be paid to Ms Hayes rather than returned to him, and he must come up with and fork out the remaining $5680.38 by the end of the year.
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