New Zealand Law Society - Lengthy delays over repairs costs landlord at Tenancy Tribunal

Lengthy delays over repairs costs landlord at Tenancy Tribunal

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The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) says a case decision sends a clear message to all landlords that failing to address maintenance issues impacts severely on the wellbeing of tenants.

The Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team has successfully taken a Rotorua property management company to the Tenancy Tribunal for failing to fix serious problems in a rental property it manages. The issues left the property cold, damp and draughty forcing the tenants to tape up the holes with cardboard.

The Tenancy Tribunal has ordered McDowell Real Estate Ltd pay $3,000 in exemplary damages for failing to provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and regulations.

Steve Watson, National Manager Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team (TCIT), says the most concerning thing about this case is the length of time the tenants had to live in a substandard premises which severely impacted their health as well as their daily lives.

“These tenants repeatedly told their landlord of the problems with their rental property, and while ultimately fixed, they took 16 months to be addressed,” says Mr Watson.

“When the living situation of the tenants gets to the point where vulnerable tenants, including a school-aged child, have to move out due to the conditions in the house, this is not only legally unacceptable, but also morally.

“Tenants have an obligation to inform their landlord if they feel their rental home needs repairs, and tenancy law clearly sets out a landlord’s obligations to attend to this in a timely manner.

“In this case the damage was caused when a water pipe in the ceiling burst and the roof was not fully repaired, causing the house to be cold, damp and draughty – all of which would not have occurred if the repairs had been done properly at the time. Due to the time taken by the landlord, the tenants had to tape up the holes with cardboard,” Mr Watson says.

The TCIT was established following the changes to the RTA that came into effect on 1 July 2016. The team focuses on significant or ongoing breaches of the Act which pose a significant risk to vulnerable tenants.