Addressing rent

Steve asks:
(updated on Friday, March 30th 2012)

We recently gave notice to our tenants after two years. There payments which were supposed to be weekly became haphazard as they were being paid by an overseas employer. After they left we have discovered they owe several weeks rent. After eventually making contact, they sent a strongly worded email complaint that during the two years they believed our property was deficient and not up to scratch. They believe they are justified in their actions and also will be making a claim on supposed damaged to their personal belongings. Their claim is without justification and of a spurious nature in our view. What are our rights?

Our Experts Answer:

There are two issues here. Firstly, your tenants appear to have rent arrears owing to you. It is a pity that your monitoring of the rent didn’t warn you of the defaults when they happened. It’s a lot more stress on all concerned when you’re trying to resolve such issues when a tenancy has ended. You say that the rent was paid by an overseas employer. Was that part of the tenancy agreement? Was the employer a signatory to the agreement? I shall assume it wasn’t, and that the payments were from the employer purely as a matter of convenience. Rent is payable by a tenant for the whole tenancy, and if there is a shortfall, the arrears are owed to the landlord. Under section 40 of the Residential Tenancies Act a tenant must pay the rent as and when it is due and payable under the tenancy agreement. Tenants cannot simply withhold rent because they think they should be entitled to do so. I suggest that you prepare a full rent statement showing all rents due and all payments received. It will reveal the precise amount owed. You may then decide to make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal for the amount owed. The second issue is a tenant’s possible claim for damage to their belongings, and for the property not being “up to scratch”. These claims will have to be a separate or counter-claim in an application by the tenants to the Tenancy Tribunal. It simply isn’t enough to say that the rent is withheld as a set-off against these claims. Each issue will be decided by the Tribunal on its own merits.

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