No escape from the house of horror

Question from Dayna updated on 22nd February 2011:

Can you please tell me the ways in which i could exit a fixed term tenancy agreement? We have signed up to a 12 month contract and are only in our 2nd week of tenancy and we are thinking of taking it to the tenancy tribunal if the landlord doesn't agree to let us end it. The property has serious drainage issue's around and under the house and has a long list of repair jobs that need to be done. We didn't know any of this until the week we moved in. The house is cold and damp and i'm concerned about my families health and i'm also pregnant so concerned for my unborn child. Any advice you could give us would be appreciated. Thank you Dayna

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

Fixed-term tenancy agreements cannot be terminated by notice. A fixed term can only be ended early by mutual agreement between the landlord and tenant, or by the Tenancy Tribunal in certain circumstances, for example:

• where there has been an unforeseen change in one party’s circumstances that will cause financial hardship that outweighs the financial hardship of the other party – the Tenancy Tribunal can also award compensation to the other party in this situation; or

• where a party is in breach of the tenancy agreement or of the Residential Tenancies Act which is not resolved after receiving a notice of a minimum of 14 days to remedy the breach, and if the Tribunal considers the breach justifies termination.

I suggest you discuss the matter with your landlord to see if you can reach an agreement to end the term early. The details of any agreement should be recorded in writing, preferably on the tenancy agreement. Landlords have an obligation to ensure the premises are maintained in a reasonable state of repair, and comply with all the relevant health, safety, and building regulations. If the landlord does not maintain the premises, the tenant can give the landlord a 14 consecutive days’ notice to carry out necessary work, and keep a copy for themselves. Service time needs to be allowed for delivering the notice to the landlord.

If the tenant hands the letter to the landlord, the notice period commences the following day. However, if the tenant drops it in the landlord’s letterbox they must allow an extra two working days, and if posted to the landlord they must allow an extra four working days. A template for a 14 days’ notice can be downloaded from the Department of Building and Housing website (www.dbh.govt.nz). If the landlord does not comply with the notice, the tenant can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved.

To discuss your situation further, or for information about a landlords obligations, you can visit the Department’s website (as noted above) 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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