Access issues when selling a tenanted property

Question from Don Wilson updated on 20th November 2006:

Regarding a house on the market and a tenant who doesn't want to grant access. I read recently where a court had determined that the tenant cannot insist on always being present. Can you quote the court finding? Thanks

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 states that landlords may obtain access to their rental property to show it to prospective purchasers with the prior consent of the tenant(s). Tenants cannot unreasonably withhold their consent, but may place reasonable conditions on the landlord’s access.
In a Wellington case in 2002, a tenanted property was on the market and difficulties arose over access by potential purchasers to view the property. The tenants advised that they would only agree to a viewing time once a week, that the premises could only be viewed when the tenants were present and that the prospective purchasers could not look inside cupboards. These conditions were found to be unreasonable by the Tenancy Tribunal. This was because of the combination of both restricted viewing times and the tenants presence being unreasonably expected. What constitutes ‘unreasonable conditions’ will depend on the facts of each individual situation. In cases that come before the Tenancy Tribunal the adjudicator considers the circumstances of each individual situation and the reasons why the tenant insisted she/he be present when deciding whether such a restriction was reasonable or not. For example, if someone knew at the beginning of the tenancy the property was on the market such a restriction is likely to be seen as unreasonable. However, if part way through a fixed term tenancy the landlord wanted to put the house on the market such a restriction may not necessarily be found to be unreasonable provided there was a good reason for it - but the reason would need to be fairly convincing.

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