Hot water leak - who pays?

Question from Deb updated on 24th October 2012:

I am a tenant who recently had a hot water leak. I didn't become aware of the problem until I had a $500 hot water bill. I alerted the landlord and they had the leak fixed. Who is liable to pay for the bill accumulated from the leak?

Our expert Megan Martin responded:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords are responsible for ensuring the premises are maintained in a reasonable state of repair having regard to the age and character of the premises. Tenants also have an obligation to ensure they notify the landlord of any damage to the premises or of the need for any repairs as soon as possible after discovery. Where both parties have fulfilled their obligations under the Act e.g. the tenant has notified the landlord of the problem as soon as possible after discovery and the landlord has fixed the problem as soon as they have been made aware (and the landlord could not have otherwise been reasonably expected to know about the need for the repairs or maintenance), then responsibility for costs as a result of damage caused prior to the problem being identified becomes uncertain. I suggest you discuss the additional costs with your landlord in the first instance and attempt to reach an agreement as to how the problem may be remedied. If an agreement cannot be reached then either party may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. To discuss your situation further or for information about applying to the Tenancy Tribunal, you can visit the Department’s website (www.dbh.govt.nz) or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

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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