The woman who got stuck with a $100K bill after her investment property was turned into a P den

"The worst thing that's ever happened in all the years that I've been renting," is how Esther Simmons puts it. "A bombshell".

Esther isn't the one flatting. She's the landlord. Esther lives in the South Island and her flat is in Auckland. In 2016, police raided her flat and arrested the people living there, for selling P.

"It was very stressful," she says, which must be the understatement of the year. The tenants left her with a $100,000 bill to clean up the traces of their drug-dealing.

Esther had hired Auckland firm Barfoot & Thompson to manage her flat in Hillsborough.

She thought the firm, nearly a century old, was a safe bet. Many would agree. Barfoot & Thompson was named the world's best lettings agency at the International Property Awards in London last year.

Esther had a lot of questions. Why did this come out of the blue, three months after Barfoot & Thompson had found and signed up the tenant? And that's tenant, not tenants. How come there were two people living there and loads of others coming and going? Did they know? If so, why didn't they say anything to Esther? Had her manager done the job as promised?

Fair Go got on the case and found neighbours more than willing to share stories of concerns about marijuana smoke, irregular visitors, big dogs, and a neighbour who answered the door more than once clutching a knife.

And what's more, they say they gave Barfoot & Thompson warnings in the early weeks of the tenancy.

"I told him about the dogs, the marijuana we could smell, the incoming cars at all hours of the night, people knocking on the doors, everything, we told him everything," says neighbour Amrita.

Her former flatmate backs that up.

"It was pretty crowded, yeah there was a lot of coming and going at 3 o'clock in the morning," says Dorothy.

Both watched the eventual police raid from their living room window.

"We were standing inside the house going, we told you, we told you this was going to happen. We told you."

Barfoot and Thompson is emphatic that it only heard the allegations of drug use about two weeks before Police raided the flat, arrested the tenants and shut down the operation, seizing $72,000 in cash and about $13,000 worth of methamphetamine.

"Had the suggestion of drug use been raised beforehand, we would most certainly have investigated it," says a director of the family-owned firm.

"When an allegation was made of potential drug use, we acted promptly in seeking proof of the allegation, so that if it were true, we could then take action."

Tenancy law suggests you have to move carefully - giving two days' notice of inspections and two weeks' warning when you suspect a person has breached their lease terms.

The neighbours are just as insistent they told all, months and not weeks before Police shut down the drug dealers living next-door.

Barfoot & Thompson also says it screened the tenant, checked four references and Tenancy databases.

"There was nothing at all in any of those multiple checks that raised any concern whatsoever."

But it turned out the woman who took the flat had a criminal history for drug offending, was about four months away from being sentenced for dealing P in Wellington and also proudly displayed photos on her Facebook page of a home detention ankle tag that she appeared to be wearing at some point.

Those neighbours say they kept trying to tell Barfoot & Thompson about the dodgy neighbours, but were mostly ignored.

Esther says her trust in property managers has been shattered and she is selling the now fully-refurbished flat.

Tenancy NZ has some questions that anyone hiring a property manager should keep in mind.

Worth considering before you place a valuable asset in the hands of a stranger.

We meet a woman who got stuck with a $100K bill after her investment property was turned into a 'P' den. Source: Fair Go