Property Management

Rent shock for abandoning rental

A tenant who had rented a house for 36 years – but forgot to give the landlord written notice he was leaving – now has to pay $9,628 in rent arrears.

Tuesday, August 17th 2021

Both the landlord’s and tenant’s names were suppressed by the Tenancy Tribunal when the tenant took a case disputing the arrears.

The tenant claimed he gave the landlord adequate notice of his intention to end his tenancy in October or November last year and should not be responsible for rent from that time on.

However, the landlord said he never received written notice from the tenant of his intention to end the tenancy – despite requesting this from him.

More than 20 attempts were made to contact the tenant.

When no written notice was provided, the landlord established the premises were abandoned on April 21 this year. They applied to the tribunal for possession and sought arrears up until 28 days from that date, in lieu of notice.

Buying home

The tenancy started at the end of October 1984 and the tenant raised his family there. Towards the end of last year he arranged to buy his own home and was going to move out.

The tribunal was told he spoke with the landlord on October 30 last year and told him he was moving out.

Subsequently he called and spoke to someone at a call centre. He advised them of the settlement date for his new home and that he would be moving out on the same day.

A visit to the landlord’s offices in November resulted in him speaking with an unknown person and telling them he was moving out and he wanted his daughter to take over the tenancy.

He made his last rent payment on November 12 last year, moved out and left his daughter at the premises. He believed she was making a social housing application through MSD so she could take over his tenancy.

The tenant claims he was not told until a conversation on January 15 this year he had to sign end of tenancy documents. He was shocked at the rent arrears he owed and did not follow up the request and subsequent attempts at contact with him.

He said he was never given documents to end the tenancy and so had not signed them. He had thought it was all arranged that when he left a new tenancy was to be started in his daughter’s name. He also agreed he had never given written notice to end the tenancy.

His daughter remained in the premises until early April this year, the landlord had not received any rent from her and the tribunal said it appears she had not made an application through MSD, which would have enabled her to have potentially taken over the tenancy.

The tribunal heard the tenant did not know written notice was a requirement to end a tenancy and it is not common knowledge a tenant has to give notice in writing.

Contact attempts

A specific leaving date was never given by the tenant, the landlord told the tribunal. He gave evidence of trying to contact the tenant more than 20 times by phone, email, letter and text and also visited the premises numerous times.

The tenant’s daughter was there on some visits. A meeting was arranged for the tenant at the landlord’s office in April, but he did not attend.

As soon as the landlord was aware the tenant had left, he told the tribunal he rigorously attempted to have the tenant complete the forms to formally end the tenancy.

“I was clear with him, from the initial discussions in October right through, regarding what he would need to do to end the tenancy.”

Adjudicator K Lash said he accepted that before the tenant left the premises he did not know written notice was required.

“He had been in the same property for 36 years so had not had to turn his mind to such things. He had found a home to purchase and was ready to move on, understandably his attention was on that.”

Lash said although the tenant had relied on his daughter, the landlord and MSD to arrange for his daughter take over the tenancy, he was the only tenant responsible for the tenancy until it ended.

“He was advised in either the conversation he had with landlord on October 30 and/or the voice message he was left on November 10 last year [that] he was required to give written notice to vacate and he could not end the tenancy without doing so.”

No active steps

Lash said even if he had not been so advised, it is the law that written notice is a requirement.

“He was advised of this on January 15 and at that stage he still did not do it. He was subsequently told a number of times in phone discussions, advice to his daughter, emails, texts and voice mail messages.

“A meeting was arranged for him which he did not attend. He was provided documents to sign, which he did not. He took no active steps of his own to deal with the issue.

“As such the landlord had to conduct the formal process to obtain possession through abandonment.”

The adjudicator said he could understand the shock the tenant was in, and frustration he was feeling following the discussion on January 15, but it did not detract from his responsibility that he was clearly advised of.

“Because written notice was not given to terminate the tenancy, the premises were abandoned and the tenant liable for the $9,628 rent up until 28 days after the date it was discovered abandoned –April 21.”

Comments

On Wednesday, August 18th 2021 8:56 am Glenn Morris said:

Fair enough. If the landlord had attempted to forcibly remove the daughter he would be fined by the tribunal. Moving out and leaving someone still in a property is not abandonment. The tenant was still in possession and knowingly so. I hate to think what condition the property was in.

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