Liability for repairs

Question from Kelly updated on 29th July 2011:

My tenant has moved out, and as he did not pay his final week of rent has forfeited part of his bond. However, he has now come back and said that I owe him money as he arranged a plumber to come and check a sink at the house. This was done without my knowledge or approval; I have conducted two maintenance visits during the year and he has never said that there was any issue with a sink, nor did he get in touch at the time. I don't think that I should have to repay him for this retrospectively (he has already paid the bill, as he used the company he works for). If I had been told, I would not have used his company to do the work, as I have a brother who lives nearby that would have checked it out for me first.

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

Landlords have an obligation to maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair, which includes keeping the plumbing in good working order. Tenants are required to notify the landlord of any damage to the premises, or of the need for any repairs as soon as possible after discovering a problem.

A landlord is required to compensate a tenant for any expense the tenant incurs repairing the premises if:

• the damage was not caused by the tenant breaching the tenancy agreement (tenants are responsible for damage they or their invited guests cause carelessly or intentionally);

• the state of disrepair was likely to cause injury to a person or property or was otherwise serious and urgent; and

• the tenant gave the landlord notice of the problem first.

I suggest that you liaise with the tenant to see if you can reach an agreement over who will cover the plumbing costs, or whether both parties agree to contribute a portion. If you can not reach an agreement, either party could apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved.

To discuss your situation further, or for information about landlord and tenant responsibilities, you can visit the Department of Building and Housing website (www.dbh.govt.nz), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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