Leaving unsafe rental

Question from Claire updated on 19th May 2017:

We signed a six month tenancy agreement, but the flat was broken into a week later and we have since moved out as we do not feel safe. The landlord has advised us that he will try to find someone to take over our tenancy and we will continue to pay rent until someone new takes over.

The burglars were able to kick down the front door, which could probably be done again. Also, one of the windows is not secure. We flagged this to the landlord the first week we moved in, but it has not been fixed. The landlord has fitted an alarm since we moved out.

What are our options regarding ending our tenancy agreement and bond? Do they differ from the normal tenancy rules as the flat does not feel like a safe and secure environment for us or our possessions?

Our expert Allan Galloway responded:

A fixed-term tenancy agreement cannot be ended by either party giving notice to terminate it before the agreed end date. You should record in writing any agreement you have so far reached with the landlord about what each of you will do now, and any final agreement about how the tenancy will end including how the bond will be dealt with. 

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, fixed-term tenancies can usually only be ended early under a number of specific conditions. These include a mutual agreement between the landlord and all tenants; if the property is destroyed or is so seriously damaged as to be uninhabitable; and by order of the Tenancy Tribunal where the landlord has not remedied a breach, like not carrying out necessary maintenance or repairs

Landlords have an obligation to provide and maintain locks or other devices to ensure the rental home is reasonably secure. If a landlord breaches this, and talking with the landlord does not resolve the matter, the tenant can issue the landlord with a 14-day notice to remedy the breach.

If the landlord does not comply, the tenant can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal as above to have the matter resolved, including seeking an order to terminate the tenancy.

For more information on tenancy - including on how to end a tenancy - go to www.tenancy.govt.nz or subscribe to our e-newsletter at www.tenancy.govt.nz/subscribe.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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