Don’t neglect tenant safety
Monday 9 April 2018
Landlords must take their responsibilities for tenant safety seriously or they could face thousands of dollars in fines – as a new Tenancy Tribunal decision shows.
By The Landlord
Christchurch boarding house owner Lina Liu has been landed with a $4,100 fine after a non-compliant gas supply was found at one of her properties.
The MBIE Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team took Liu to the Tribunal for failing to meet her responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).
Tenancy compliance team manager Steve Watson says they acted following complaints of a gas leak at one of Liu's boarding houses.
“When the team looked into Ms Liu’s operations, not only was the gas supply to the property found to be non-compliant, but it was established that Ms Liu failed to have working smoke alarms at both of her properties.
“Further there were no written tenancy agreements with insulation statements in place.”
The Tribunal ordered Liu to pay $4000 in exemplary damages for the health and safety breaches and stated that smoke alarms “go to the very heart of tenant safety”.
It also issued an order which allows the tenancy compliance team to return to ensure the gas work has been fixed.
Watson says this is just as important as the financial deterrent and will ensure future tenants can safely live in the rental property.
The Tribunal also ordered Liu to pay $100.00 for failing to provide a written statement adequately describing the levels of insulation, as has been legally required since July 2016.
Watson says insulation statements were introduced to give tenants certainty and choice when it comes to choosing which rental house to live in.
“The lack of understanding in this area is something we see a lot in our work – it is great to see the Tribunal support the importance of these statements.”
Finally, the Tribunal issued Liu with a two year restraining order, which means that if she is found to breach the law again in that period she could face criminal charges in the District Court.
Watson says the order shows that landlords can’t put tenant safety at risk through poor maintenance and ignoring the law.
The tenancy compliance team is working to hold landlords, across New Zealand, who seriously breach the RTA to account, he adds.
MBIE’s tenancy compliance team has had much greater powers to investigate and prosecute breaches of the RTA since 2016.
But it focuses on significant or ongoing breaches of the RTA which pose a significant risk to vulnerable tenants.
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