More than fair “wear and tear”
Tuesday 12 November 2019
Proving tenant liability for damage has long been a major worry for landlords but a recent Tenancy Tribunal ruling shows that it can be done.
By Miriam Bell
Holes in the wall, damaged carpets – they are the stuff that landlords dread to see in their rental properties.
Yet such damage is all too common and it can be difficult to establish that it constitutes more than fair “wear and tear”, rather than being accidental.
Tauranga landlords Paramjit Dhatt & Kamaljit Singh (represented by Kaimai Real Estate Ltd) were left with just such damage at the end of their tenant’s residence in their property.
Rachel Patira left 12 holes in the walls, a broken exterior panel, a missing bathroom ceiling panel, damaged carpet in the dining room, a broken light fitting, and broken door handles.
Rubbish had not been removed from the property, the keys were not returned and Patira was also in significant rent arrears.
The Singh’s went to the Tenancy Tribunal for rent arrears, compensation for the damage, and refund of the bond.
While Tribunal rulings on damage have, in the past, been controversial, on this occasion the Tribunal’s ruling was firmly in favour of the landlord.
Adjudicator A Macpherson said that, under the Residential Tenancies Act, a tenant must leave the premises reasonably clean and tidy, remove all rubbish, return all keys and security devices, and leave all chattels, at the end of the tenancy.
“In this case, the tenant did not leave the premises reasonably clean and tidy; did not remove all rubbish; and did not return all keys,” Macpherson said. “Also, the landlord had to replace light bulbs and door stops.”
Due to the infamous Holler & Rouse vs Osaki case, landlords have to prove that damage to the premises occurred during the tenancy and is more than fair wear and tear.
If this is established, to avoid liability, the tenant must prove they did not carelessly or intentionally cause or permit the damage.
In the case, Macpherson ruled that the damage done to the property by Patira was more than fair wear and tear.
“The tenant has not disproved liability and I find that the evidence points to intentional damage. The amounts ordered are proved.”
Patira was ordered to pay a total of $6,194.89 (including rent arrears). However, the bond was refunded and put towards it, which meant payment of $4,359.89 was ordered.
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