Negligent property manager?

Melissa asks:
(updated on Monday, July 18th 2016)

We have recently finished renting out our house as it is up for sale. We have been dissatisfied with our agent that managed our property while we were overseas.

They emailed me saying they were happy with the property and refunded the bond to the tenant. I asked multiple questions about our furniture as it was rented partly furnished. We have since found damage to the property and the furniture.

In terms of the house, the agent says it is wear and tear. But they say they can not comment on the furniture and are backing the tenant. They cannot give me inspection reports or photos of the furniture and are ignoring my emails, calls, etc. But there's damage to goods and vandalised wood furniture.

I'm disheartened at paying their fees and having no support from them and I see them as being negligent. They tell me I can try the Tribunal but that I will likely lose as I have no proof. Is this not what they were meant to be documenting and managing? Do I have rights to seek compensation from the agent for negligence rather than chasing compensation from the tenant?

Our Experts Answer:

You haven’t indicated how long you were overseas. The length of time that a tenant has been occupying a property should be taken into account when assessing whether there has been reasonable wear and tear. Also, the profile of the tenant needs to be considered. For example, “reasonable wear and tear” for a family with active children could be different from what is reasonable with an adult couple only. More people in a property will result in more use of the property (and its furniture). 

Regardless what profile of tenant you had, the agent is required to act in your best interests while they are representing you. That should include recording the condition of the property at start and end of each tenancy and regular inspections to ensure that the condition of the property is looked after and maintenance issues are addressed promptly. After each inspection you should have received some form of report from your agent.

I suggest you look at the management agreement that you had with your agent. If you haven’t received the service that your agent promised to deliver, you may like to make an application to the Disputes Tribunal. Be aware though that you will have to establish that the agent failed in their duty to you. Just because the tenant left a bit of unexpected wear and tear does not mean the agent is at fault. You will have to document the grounds of your complaint and give details of the loss that you believe was caused by the agent.

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