Changing tenancy terms
Question from Richard updated on 19th July 2019:
The tenant that I have in my rental property (which is managed by a property manager) signed a tenancy agreement for six months. A few weeks before the tenant was due to leave she said that she would like to stay for as long as possible. My property manager extended the tenancy for a further three months and confirmed it by email.
I changed my flight home to New Zealand to arrive three days after the tenant was due to leave. But the tenant then changed her mind, after starting the new term, and asked the tenancy term to be returned back to the original one. This means I've had to change my flight again.
My questions are:
1. Is an email confirmation of a new tenancy term legally binding?
2. As my property manager confirmed the change, should they have got a written and signed addendum to the original contract?
3. Among other things, I'm out of pocket by nearly $300 for flight changes, etc that I didn't need to make. Given the circumstances, can I claim for a refund of these costs?
Our expert Bernard Parker responded:
When the tenancy was extended and confirmed by email that became a fixed term expiring in January 2019. Usually a property manager will confirm that extension with the tenant, either in writing or by exchange of emails.
If that was done, the fixed term remains and cannot be changed simply by the tenant changing her mind. A fixed term tenancy requires the agreement of both parties to change the termination date.
The second change, apparently, was a cost that you could well have avoided if the property manager had not accepted the tenant changing her mind again. I suggest that you talk to your property manager about the additional costs that you have incurred, and ask for reimbursement.
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.