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Landlord newsletter

Issue  No. 23 - December 2012

In this edition of the newsletter we cover:

Pre-holiday checklist for landlords

Before you go on holiday, make sure you’ve checked off the points below, so everything runs smoothly while you’re enjoying your break.

Remember, these points apply at any time of the year, not just at Christmas.

Appoint an agent

If you’re going to be out of New Zealand for more than 21 consecutive days, you must appoint a New Zealand-based agent.

You must also:

  • tell your tenant the agent’s details and address for service
  • notify us if a bond is held
  • let your tenant and us know when you’ve returned.

You can notify us by calling 0800 83 62 62 (0800 TENANCY).

Check addresses for service

The Christchurch earthquake was a reminder about the importance of keeping up-to-date contact details and addresses for service, for both landlords and tenants.

Email and text messaging proved invaluable during this emergency, as tenants became more mobile or vacated tenancies.

Remember, if an email address has been supplied as an address for service, it can also be used to serve notices.

Tell us you will be away, when you file an application

If you make a Tenancy Tribunal application just before the Christmas holidays and you’re going to be away, please add a note to let us know when you’ll be back.

Make applications online

You can make a Tenancy Tribunal Application online any time over the Christmas period. It’s available 24 hours a day.

Making a Tenancy Tribunal application online »

Ministry holiday hours

You can call our Contact Centre bond line (0800 737 666) or Tenancy line (0800 83 62 62) from 8am–4.30pm on 24, 27, 28 and 31 December.

Our normal business hours of 8am–5.30pm will resume on Thursday, 3 January 2012.

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New Bill reforms debt collection and enforcement options

The Courts and Criminal Matters Bill will amend a number of statutes and simplify debt collection and enforcement.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and the District Courts Act 1947 will be amended to make attachment orders easier and faster to get.

An attachment order requires employers or the Ministry of Social Development to make regular deductions from the salaries or benefits of people who owe money, until their debt is fully paid. This is usually the most effective means of recovering the debt.

The District Courts Act 1947 will be amended to make it easier for creditors to obtain an attachment order.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 will be amended to enable Tenancy Tribunal Adjudicators and Mediators to record the details of any attachment order made at the end of a hearing.

The attachment order must be agreed to by both parties at the Tribunal hearing. This will enable an attachment order to be imposed immediately.

The intention is to bring these amendments into effect in early to mid 2013.

You can read more about debt collection and enforcement options in the links below.

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Tales from the Tenancy Tribunal

In each newsletter we report on a Tenancy Tribunal decision that raises an interesting legal principle or unusual situation.

Take care negotiating the end of a tenancy

The case below illustrates the principles of ‘waiver’ and ‘betterment’.

Just fix the fence

During the final week of a tenancy the landlord told the outgoing tenant she would have to clean carpets and a bath, and repair damage to a fence and some wallpaper. Later the landlord negotiated with the tenant to allow new tenants to move in early, before the end of the outgoing tenant’s notice to terminate. At that time the landlord also told the tenant not to do anything other than repair the fence. On that basis the tenant agreed to allow to new tenants to move in early.

Carpet cleaning request was ‘waived’

The landlord made a claim for damages for carpet cleaning. The Tribunal dismissed the claim. Because the outgoing tenant relied on the landlord’s instruction not to do anything other than fix the fence, the landlord ‘waived’ or voluntarily gave up the right to compensation for carpet cleaning.

Wallpaper was already in poor condition

The landlord also claimed for compensation for bedroom and lounge wallpaper that appeared to be damaged by the tenant’s son. This claim was also dismissed.

In making this ruling, the Tribunal had to determine what had been lost and then put a financial figure on it. To do this, the Tribunal needed to know the age and condition of the wallpaper.

This is because an injured party (in this case, the landlord) can be compensated, but cannot profit from another party’s (the tenant’s) default. This would constitute ‘betterment’ – where the replacement value of the wallpaper is more than the actual cost of the original.

The landlord accepted that there had been some peeling of the wallpaper that a previous tenant had fixed. The wallpaper was thought to be 9–10 years old – well above the estimated life expectancy of the wallpaper, which was 5–7 years. The condition of the wallpaper at the beginning of the tenancy was unknown. The Tribunal considered the damage to the wallpaper was due to fair wear and tear rather than damage caused intentionally or carelessly by the tenant.

Read tips on ending a tenancy below.

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Consultation: Unit Titles Act amendments

If you own or let a unit title property or just have a general interest in unit title developments, you can have your say on proposed changes to the Unit Titles Act from now until 1 February 2013.

The consultation document for the Unit Titles Amendment Bill outlines proposed minor and technical amendments to the Unit Titles Act 2010 and Unit Title Regulations 2011.

You can read the consultation document and frequently asked questions, and make your submission, online.

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Canterbury landlords: grab a Christmas discount on insulation

If you’re a landlord with property in Canterbury, here’s an opportunity to insulate your property for less.

If your tenant has a Community Services Card, and you get a free quote done by 31 January 2013, you can apply for a higher subsidy for insulation – up to 60%.

Many landlords negotiate with their tenants to carry out repairs and maintenance while the tenants are on holiday, to minimise disruption.

And summer is an ‘off-season’ for insulation, so you may also be able to get the work done at shorter notice.

If your tenant doesn’t have a Community Services Card, you can still get a subsidy.

These subsidies are available through a charitable trust.

For more about insulation and the Community Energy Network and EECA Energywise subsidies through out New Zealand, see the links below.

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New resource for boarding house tenants

 We’ve produced a handy pocket-sized card informing boarding house tenants of their rights and responsibilities.

The tips from the card are on our website.

Boarding house tenancy: Know your rights »

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Free seminars for new landlords

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the New Zealand Property Investors Federation are running landlord education seminars about practical property management.

About the seminars

These seminars are for landlords who have been in the rental market for fewer than 18 months.

Each seminar covers:

  • tenancy agreements
  • effective tenancy management
  • dispute resolution.

The seminars are free, but places are limited, so you need to register to attend.

Register to attend the next seminar

The next landlord seminar will be held on Wednesday 20 March 2013 in Blenheim.

For more information, or to register, see the link below.

Keeping up to date with events

We’ll add more seminars and events to the Landlord events page as they become available.

Or you can call us on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62).

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