Notice to remedy for untidy tenants

Question from Simon updated on 22nd November 2019:

My tenant is on a one year fixed term ending in January 2020. The house is really dirty, there are food scraps everywhere, the carpets are stained and filthy. The kitchen has food on the floor and the work top is cluttered and filthy. I have conducted two inspections, each time there were promises to clean but nothing has happened. I will take photos and issue a 14 day notice to remedy after my next inspection in two weeks time but do I have any grounds for eviction? I was refused insurance due to the age and condition of the house. How does this affect my position?

Our expert Jennifer Sykes responded:

When renting a property, a tenant’s responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act include keeping the property reasonably clean and tidy. If a tenant breaches the RTA, the landlord has the option of issuing a 14 day Notice to Remedy. The notice should tell the tenant what they have done to breach the Tenancy Agreement, how to fix it, and how long they have to fix it. There is a 14-day Notice to Remedy template on the tenancy.govt.nz website that can be downloaded.

If the landlord sends a 14-day Notice to Remedy and the tenant does not undertake any remedial work within the time allowed, the landlord has the option to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal online via tenancy.govt.nz for a work order requiring the tenant to clean the house within a specified timeframe. Keep copies of the inspection reports (dated), images, and agreement by the tenant to tidy the house as documentation to support a Tenancy Tribunal application. A work order by the Tenancy Tribunal could also allow the applicant (i.e. the landlord) to undertake the work themselves, charge the cost to the right party, and give timeframes within which the work will be done. They may also be able to treat these costs as rent arrears.

With regard to ending a tenancy, the landlord can’t give notice to end a fixed-term tenancy early unless the tenant agrees in writing. However, if the landlord has given the tenant notice to remedy a breach that is capable of being remedied and the breach is not remedied then a landlord may seek earlier termination as part of a Tenancy Tribunal application. As part of this process a mediation service will be provided to attempt to resolve the dispute by agreement. The Tribunal can also make work orders with consequences if they are not complied with.

As there are different types of insurance, you may consult your insurance broker or insurance company as insurance companies’ policies vary. Whether the property is insured or not this does not affect the options you have to resolve the breach or the seeking of Tenancy Tribunal orders relating to earlier termination for not remedying the breach.

For more information on Tenancy Tribunal orders, go to www.tenancy.govt.nz/disputes/tribunal/decisions-the-tribunal-can-make/types-of-tenancy-tribunal-orders/. You can also subscribe to our e-newsletter Tenancy Matters here.  

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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