Bond dispute

Question from Jo-Anne updated on 28th September 2015:

My daughter has vacated a property.

At inspection, the property manager said how clean and tidy property was left and agreed to give bond back.

The next day the owners brother (the owner is overseas) came around and said there was still a small amount of lawn clippings and instructed the property manager not to release the bond.

The property manager agreed with my daughter - re: no more could be lifted without gouging in and digging up the ground creating a huge mess - but could not release the bond.

Also, the previous tenant did some damage.

Nothing was ever said until now (2.5 years later) and the property manager expects my daughter to pay for the damage done by the previous tenant. (It was noted at the property manager agency that the damage was done before my daughter moved in).

Can she do this?

The owners said the property manager emailed them to say the lawn clipping issue was put in a letter to my daughter. But we have a text from the property manager to my daughter saying the lawn clipping issue should have been the responsibility of previous tenant. Is this a code of conduct issue - re: dishonesty to owner and tenant?

Our expert Bernard Parker responded:

It sounds like the property manager has told your daughter that the bond should be released, but has changed her mind under pressure from the property owner.

It highlights the importance of having accurate property condition records from the start of tenancy. The property manager could have avoided any confusion if she had taken photographs of the property (including indoors and the outside grounds) that showed the gardens with or without the pile of lawn clippings.

You say that there is damage noted by the property management company prior to your daughter’s tenancy starting. If that is attributable to an earlier tenancy, your daughter should not be charged.

You mention a “code of conduct” issue – there is no formal code of conduct for a property manager. There is, however, an expectation that a tenant can deal with her property manager in good faith.

If she cannot resolve her dispute with the property manager I suggest that she applies for the full bond to be refunded to her (with or without the property manager’s signature). If the property manager then wishes to challenge the release of the bond she will have to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for specified sums related to the cleaning or damage. It will bring things to a head and provide your daughter with an impartial forum for resolving the dispute.

Bernard is principal of Quinovic – Kapiti-Mana. Quinovic's outstanding people and systems provide the most professional, effective and reliable residential property management service in the NZ market for over 30 years.

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