New Zealand Law Society - Action against landlord uses new legislative provision

Action against landlord uses new legislative provision

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Manurewa landlord Satya Silan has been ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal to refund $15,840 in rent and to pay $750 in exemplary damages for renting an unconsented, converted garage as a separate household unit.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) brought the application to the Tenancy Tribunal. It is the first successful prosecution of a landlord for renting a substandard property, under the Government’s tenancy law reform passed last year.

Section 124A of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 now allows MBIE to directly prosecute landlords rather than relying on tenants to take an action in the Tribunal. The law change also introduced a requirement for smoke alarms, home insulation by July 2019 and strengthened tenancy protection when taking Tribunal cases over substandard rentals.

MBIE says Mr Silan came to its attention following an article published in the media last year, which reported that Mr Silan’s tenants, a family with a very young child, were required to leave their rental property without another place to live. 

“Our investigations found that the Auckland Council had issued Mr Silan notices to cease using the premises as a third household unit and to remove unconsented building works, reverting the building back to a standalone garage. Mr Silan continued to rent the garage before this work was completed,” Tenancy Compliance and Investigations team manager Steve Watson says.

MBIE says the money awarded to it by the Tenancy Tribunal will be paid, without deduction, to the tenants on recovery from the landlord.

A statement from Housing Minister Nick Smith says the Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team was established late last year following the passage of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2016 and has been provided with a budget of $2.6 million this financial year and $3.3 million next year.

Dr Smith says the team has received 242 complaints to date, found 26 involved no breach, reached a compliance agreement with landlords in 76 cases, provided advice to landlords in 55 cases and to date has lodged cases with the Tribunal in three cases involving 199 properties.

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