Property Management

Tenancy terminated after house empty for a year

A Wellington state house tenant who tried to hang on to her rented home for a year, while out of the country, with no fixed return date, has been forced to give up the lease.

Thursday, March 18th 2021

Kāinga Ora took Nasteha Allaale to the Tenancy Tribunal when she refused to give up the tenancy on the Strathmore Park house. She had not paid rent on the home for a year.

Allaale has not been living at the property since December 2019 when she took her four children to visit her ex-husband in Australia.

She and her children did not return to New Zealand as planned in March 2020 because of travel and Covid-19 concerns. She also has a child with a health issue that she needed to consider.

Since then, Allaale has not been able to return because she cannot manage four children in quarantine – especially the child with the health issue.

Kāinga Ora, which has a social responsibility to provide a home for families in need, asked the tribunal to end Allaale’s tenancy because the house has not been occupied for more than a year. There is no known time when she can return and there are other families that are desperately in need of accommodation.

It says Allaale can apply for a house when she eventually gets back to New Zealand.

In its decision, the tribunal says the situation is unusual and it can understand why Allaale wants to keep the house to make it easier to return to New Zealand. But it also accepts Kāinga Ora has difficulty with an empty house that could be occupied by another family.

However, the tribunal also gave Kāinga Ora a rap over the knuckles for not bringing the case earlier.

The state housing provider showed records that Allaale has not paid any rent since a $600 payment on February 4, last year. The arrears are now more than $6,000.

Allaale was deemed not liable for the full amount of arrears because the tribunal says the matter should have come to it much sooner. It having been clear throughout the past year there was little chance of quarantine being lifted.

Having said that, the tribunal says that it appreciated that Kāinga Ora’s reason for delay was to keep the possibility open for Allaale to return and continue to occupy the house.

It says it was also up to Allaale to assess the situation she was in and not expect her desire to keep the house would be at no cost to her. Tenants expecting to occupy must also expect to pay rent.

As there is too much uncertainty about Allaale’s return to New Zealand, the tribunal says the house needs to be made available for another family. It terminated the tenancy and ordered Allaale to pay $1,842 in rent arrears to June last year.

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