Leaking money

Sarika asks:
(updated on Thursday, June 14th 2012)

I have a problem with one of my properties. The garage ceiling started to leak a week after the tenant moved in. A real estate agent was managing the property and failed to remedy the problem. Furthermore it has been 10 weeks now and tenant has refused to pay any rent. I have now taken this property off this agency for failing to attempt to repair and for no action taken against these tenants for missed rent. I have used up all my savings trying to pay the mortgage for this house on my own and have resorted to using my credit card. I live in Perth with my husband but I am now being forced to return to New Zealand and work at my old job again so I can pay for the mortgage. I would like these tenants to vacate my property and pay all overdue rent however they are on a fixed tenancy. Do I have any rights?

Our Experts Answer:

You have two issues here: the performance of the agent in managing your property and the tenants failure to pay rent. Your most pressing task is to ensure that the roof leaks are attended to and that the tenants are paying full rent. Withholding all rent when there is a leak only in the garage (and not the living areas) seems rather extreme. The question may arise as to whether the tenants want some compensation (and how much) for the inconvenience they incurred as a result of the garage ceiling leak. If you can agree on a solution and get back on track, try to do so as soon as possible. If not, apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order for payment of arrears and for termination of the tenancy. The tenants will probably counter with a claim for compensation but they in turn must fulfil their responsibilities to pay rent. The Tribunal will make an assessment and make appropriate orders. You may not be successful in the request for termination unless you can show that the tenants unreasonably withheld at least 21 days’ rent. The agent’s management of your property should be covered by a management agreement which specifies the agent’s responsibilities. If the agent has failed to fulfil their duties under the management contract, you may have recompense from them for your losses arising from that failure. Try to settle with the agent. If you can’t agree, you can apply to the Disputes Tribunal for help in settling that dispute

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