Excessive break fees

Question from Len updated on 15th March 2019:

I am renting a flat in Christchurch and have been renting my own home out to my daughter and grand daughter. My daughter has now bought her own home and I will return to my home shortly. When I signed the rental agreement with the agency earlier this year it was for a fixed one year tenancy. I was quoted on paper that the breaking tenancy fee was $310. Now that I am breaking the tenancy I am told the fee is $653, which is a massive increase. Do I have any civil redress here?

Our expert Jennifer Sykes responded:

When a landlord and tenant agree to end a fixed term tenancy before the agreed end date, any conditions that are agreed to should be written down and signed by both parties. If the landlord wants to change the conditions you had agreed on for breaking the fixed term early, they should have your agreement or should have negotiated the change with you.

You should request a breakdown of the cost from the landlord and consider any conditions that were attached to their agreement. Landlords will often require a payment to cover their reasonable expenses incurred, for example advertising and showing prospective tenants the property, but may also require as part of their agreement that a tenant pays rent up until the day before a new tenant agrees to take over.

If you are unable to resolve this issue with the landlord, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. For more on the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, go to www.tenancy.govt.nz or subscribe to our e-newsletter Tenancy Matters here.  

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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