Massive damage under property manager

Kodi asks:
(updated on Wednesday, May 13th 2015)

I live and work overseas and have a furnished apartment in NZ which was managed by a property manager. The property manager advised me of complaints from neighbours about smells. Upon inspection the property manager discovered the place completely trashed with stained carpet and ruined furniture and appliances. With filth and damage everywhere. The tenant was given notice but stopped paying rent and was evicted. Repairs are estimated at $15,000. The property was under a property manager for four years, same tenant with none of this reported to me. Is the manager liable for damages?

Our Experts Answer:

You haven’t said whether the eviction was carried out following an order of the Tenancy Tribunal.  I’ll assume that you did receive an order.  There are two issues here.  Firstly, the tenant is responsible for cleaning and/or repairs to damage caused during the tenancy.  To that end, the tenant is responsible for any damage to furniture, carpet, appliances that is caused by the tenant or by anyone the tenant allows on the property. The tenant is also responsible for any rent arrears that the Tenancy Tribunal establishes.  District Court Collections processes are available for you to follow up on the order and collect the debt. The second issue which you raise is whether the property manager is liable for damages.  As your agent a property manager must act in your interests.    He (or she) must also carry out his tasks diligently to ensure that your interests are protected.  However, that depends to a large degree on the agreement that you have with your property manager. You can make a claim against your property manager only if your property manager has failed in his duty to you and if you have suffered a loss as a result of that failure.  For example, if the property manager failed to carry out inspections that were promised, and as a result failed to notice damage over a long period, then you may well have a claim against him.  If, however, the required inspections were carried out but all the damage occurred in a short period after the most recent inspection and just prior to the tenant’s departure, then it may be hard to establish a failure on the part of the property manager. You should first look at the facts. Given that the tenant appears to have caused the damage, when and over what period of time did it occur?  Should the property manager have noticed the condition of the house?  If so, did he take action bring the tenant to task?  Did he do so promptly?  Did he keep you informed about what was happening?  Based on these questions you will know whether the property manager was in a position to take action to prevent any of the damage, and whether he took the necessary action.  Your decision will flow from these answers.

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