Tenants paying landlords' phone maintenance bills

Monday 12 July 2004

Residential tenants may be paying as much as $9 million a year to phone companies to protect against household wiring failure, which in many cases is likely to be the responsibility of their landlords.

By The Landlord

The wiring maintenance fee offered by telcos may get a fault fixed earlier, cover accidental damage, and save arguments with landlords, but for many tenants it may be a cost that can be saved.

More than 1.4 million householders have residential phone contracts with Telecom and TelstraClear. One third of New Zealanders rent.

Telecom says 75 per cent of residential customers sign up for the maintenance plan, which has a monthly charge of $2.24. TelstraClear has a similar service at $2.25 a month.

The issue of who is responsible has not been tested in the tenancy tribunal but the Housing Ministry says its view is that landlords are responsible for maintaining wiring within the walls of houses.

National manager tenancy services Nigel Bickle says section 45(1)(b) of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 requires a landlord to keep premises in a reasonable state of repair, where premises include "facilities".

"Communication facilities aren't defined in the legislation but the ministry considers that a reasonable interpretation is that wiring would be included in communication facilities".

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