Negligent damage?

Question from Karen updated on 20th March 2015:

Hi there, soon I will give notice to my tenant. My question is regarding negligent damage. The agent's checklist when the tenant moved in three and a half years ago commented that the house is in "immaculate" condition. The house is 12 years old. We now need to replace two bathroom vanities destroyed by water damage from tenant use (water not being wiped up and has been absorbed through the doors and top). Also four wardrobe doors have gouges on the inside. Tenant used the doors to close the dresser drawers inside, rather than closing the drawers and then closing the doors. They have removed about 1 square meter of our lawn to put down pavers for a BBQ. Would this all fall into the negligent damage category for which we can claim the bond and claim further monies for repairs? Thanks for your help.

Our expert Alan Bruce responded:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act), tenants are responsible for leaving the premises in a reasonably clean and tidy condition, and are also responsible for any damage they or their invited guests cause carelessly or intentionally during the tenancy. Tenants are also prohibited from attaching any fixtures or making any renovation, alteration, or addition to the premises unless allowed for in the tenancy agreement, or with the prior written consent from the landlord (which the landlord cannot unreasonably withhold). Upon removing any such fixture, the tenant may be liable for repairing any damage that is caused during the removal. Whether damage caused by the tenant (or their invited guests) to the premises is considered “careless” or “intentional” would depend on the specifics of each individual set of circumstances. I suggest you discuss your concerns with your tenant(s) in the first instance to try and reach an agreement regarding the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy, including the effect of any alterations that have been made to the premises. If you are unable to reach an agreement with the tenant(s) regarding the refund of the bond or further monies owed, you may wish to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter decided on. In making a judgement an adjudicator will take into account the age and condition of the premises, depreciated value, and the cause and extent of the damage. To discuss your situation further, or for further information regarding damage a tenant is responsible for you can call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262) between 8.00am-5.30pm Monday to Friday to speak with a member of our Tenancy Advice team. You can also visit our website: www.tenancy.govt.nz/tenancy-index.

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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