Partner’s residence breached tenancy agreement

Monday 20 July 2020

More people living in a rental property than allowed under the tenancy agreement is a common problem, but a recent Tenancy Tribunal ruling demonstrates why landlords should address this issue.

By Miriam Bell

Tenancy agreements should state exactly who the tenants of a rental property are, yet landlords often run into problems with more people living in their rental properties than is allowed under the agreement.

However, it is possible for tenancy agreements to limit the number of people allowed to live in a rental property – and doing just that has paid off for a Dunedin landlord.

Karen Anderson rented her Caversham property out to Colleen Atwood for an eight-month period in 2019.It appears the relationship quickly became acrimonious, resulting in three Tribunal hearings late in 2019.

One of the major issues was Atwood allowing her partner to live in the property too, despite requests from Anderson that he leave. It led to Anderson obtaining a declaration from the Tribunal that the partner was not a tenant.

When the tenancy ended, the parties returned to the Tribunal to battle it out over a host of issues.

These included damage liability and claims Atwood interfered with smoke alarms, denied Anderson entry, disturbed the neighbours and, again, exceeded the maximum number of people allowed to live at the premises.

While the Tribunal returned a mixed set of findings on most of the claims, the adjudicator came down firmly in Anderson’s favour on the subject of Atwood’s partner.

That’s because the tenancy agreement specified that a maximum number of one person was allowed to live in the premises during the tenancy.

Anderson alleged that the tenant’s partner had occupied the premises for several months, despite requests for him to leave and the Tribunal Order obtained on the issue.

Tribunal adjudicator J.Wilson found the tenant committed an unlawful act by allowing her partner to reside at the premises despite the landlord’s repeated requests for him to leave.

Wilson said this unlawful act was intentional on the part of Atwood because she failed to remove her partner from the property when asked to do so.

This effectively initiated the break-down of the relationship between the parties, led to significant disputes throughout most of the eight-month tenancy, and meant the landlord suffered significant stress and anxiety.

“The legislation provides for a landlord to specify the maximum number of occupants in a tenancy agreement,” Wilson said. “It is in the public interest that tenants comply with the contractual arrangements they sign.”

Taking all the circumstances into account, the Tribunal found the breach by the tenant to be on the lower end of the scale but awarded exemplary damages – of $250.

This award, along with the various cleaning and repair costs mandated by the Tribunal, meant Atwood was left with an order to pay $1,280 to Anderson.

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