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Landlord newsletter

Issue  No. 24 - March 2013

In this edition of the newsletter we cover:

Free seminars for new landlords

MBIE is running landlord seminars about practical property management in partnership with the New Zealand Property Investors' Federation. 

These seminars are for new landlords – those who have been in the New Zealand rental market for less than 12 months. The seminars focus on tenancy agreements, effective tenancy management and dispute resolution.

The seminars are free, but places are limited, so you need to register to attend. To register, use the link below.

MBIE (DBH) seminars – NZPIF website

Currently there is a seminar planned for Rotorua on 14 May.

New events will be added to this page:

Landlord events and contacts: Landlord seminars

For more information, call us on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62).

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Tales from the Tenancy Tribunal

In each newsletter we report on Tenancy Tribunal decisions that raise an interesting legal principle or unusual situation.

Take care when charging for outgoings

In addition to the tenancy agreement, the landlord and tenant had an arrangement called a ‘Utilities Supply Contract’. This meant the tenant paid a utility bond and a weekly contribution to power and gas charges. The landlord, a property management company, then charged the tenant for the full, non-discounted amounts on power accounts. But the landlord paid the power company the discounted amount due when the account was paid on time. The landlord chose not to present power and water accounts to the tenant as they fell due, and instead did an audit later.

The Tribunal held that as the tenant had an obligation to pay the power account, it followed that the tenant should be given the opportunity to pay the power account on time and earn the discount. The landlord could not contract the tenant into an arrangement that would modify her obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.

The Tribunal found the utilities supply agreement in this case was unenforceable. The landlord’s obligation to supply power, gas and water arose from the tenancy agreement and not from the utilities supply agreement.

Water charges – Who Pays?
Your rights and responsibilities: a quick guide

No fixed-term boarding house tenancies

A tenant entered a into six-month fixed-term tenancy at a boarding house in May 2011, but vacated the tenancy after just one month. The landlord claimed rent arrears.

The Tribunal referred to a Wellington District Court decision, Platinum Rentals New Zealand Limited v Madden, delivered on 11 September 2012. The Court described boarding house tenancies as a further and separate category of tenancy, being subject to their own rules. S66B of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act) means a boarding house tenancy is intended to, or does, last for 28 days or more.. The tenant has exclusive rights to occupy particular sleeping quarters and the right to shared use of boarding house facilities.

The Court said a landlord cannot stipulate a fixed term for a boarding house tenancy except the minimum period of 28 days. A boarding house tenant could at any stage after that initial period give notice to terminate the tenancy.

The Tribunal agreed that the provisions in Part 2A of the Act reinforced the transitory nature of boarding house tenancies. The Tribunal reiterated it was bound by the District Court decision in the Platinum case, and dismissed the landlord’s application for rent arrears.

Abandoned boarding house tenancy

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Deciding who’s responsible for digital television facilities in a rental property

Where a landlord has installed a property with the equipment necessary to receive digital television, the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 places an obligation on the landlord to repair and maintain that equipment.

If a property is not equipped to receive digital television, or is equipped to receive only analogue television, it is unlikely that the landlord would have a responsibility to install the equipment required to receive digital TV.

Tenants can install digital television equipment themselves

If a property does not have the equipment required to receive digital television, then a tenant may wish to install the digital television equipment themselves. However, as the equipment might be seen to be a fixture, the tenant must first seek permission from the landlord to install that equipment themselves. The landlord cannot unreasonably withhold that permission.

Before granting permission to install the equipment, it would be wise for both the landlord and tenant to agree on who owns the equipment, and who will be responsible for the repair and maintenance of it once it is installed. As with any agreement, this should be recorded in writing.

It is also important to note that a tenant may remove any of their own fixtures at the end of a tenancy, provided it will not cause irreparable damage to the property. For this reason, a landlord may decide that they would prefer to install the required equipment themselves.

If a landlord wants to install the equipment in their property during a tenancy, they will first need to obtain the tenant’s permission before entering the house to carry out the work. When carrying out the work they need to respect the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the premises.

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Canterbury Earthquake: Renting out a property with earthquake damage

If your property was damaged in the earthquakes, and you decide to rent it out, you need to be aware of tenants’ and landlords’ rights and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.

If your tenant thinks the property has become unsafe or unsanitary, and you don’t take action to rectify the problem, the tenant can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal.

If your house is considered uneconomic to repair and you decide to rent it out, the property will not be insured. This could affect your tenant’s ability to obtain contents insurance. It’s good practice to inform your tenants if your property is not insured.

We’ve developed information sheets with useful tips for both landlords and tenants. These may help you resolve issues you may encounter as a result of the earthquakes.

Renting out a property with earthquake damage
Canterbury earthquake: Information for landlords and tenants
Frequently Asked Questions - Your Property (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority website)

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Tenancy Tribunal online - now faster and easier to use

Over 60% of the 45,000 tenancy applications made every year are made online. We’ve improved the system to make it faster and easier to apply.

Before, you had to post or fax supporting documents to us, and then we had to manually match them up with your online application. Now, you can include all of your attachments when you make your online application. This should save a day or so in scheduling the application for a mediation or hearing.

We’ve been working closely with the Ministry of Justice to reduce the wait times for tenancy hearings. We’re making good progress. For example, the North Shore court has reduced from taking 48 working days to get to a tenancy hearing for a current tenancy, to (last month) 26 working days.

Overall, the average days to a Tenancy Tribunal hearing, from the time the application is received, are:

  • 22 days in Northern region
  • 19 days in Central region
  • 18 days in Southern region.

We’ve also reviewed the tenancy application form so it’s easier for you to include the information to support your dispute and get it resolved quickly.

Making a Tenancy Tribunal application online

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