Overcoming access issues with tenants when selling a rental

Question from Anna updated on 18th November 2010:

We have a rental which we wish to sell, our tenant is on a fixed term agreement for another 6 months so we have told her we wish to sell to an investor so she can stay. She was very reasonable and said she would move out if required to but not before Feb (beach property). She also stated in several conversations that she would not block us from being able to sell. She and someone she knows have put in an offer to buy it themselves but it is too low, we are currently in negotiations but have also listed as we are unsure whether they will pay what the house is worth. The real estate agent called today to say that the tenant is blocking her from showing buyers around the house, saying she wants to be there when people are shown around - but she works long hours 6 days a week. I know that the tenant has to allow reasonable access, but if she continues to obstruct a sale can we end her fixed term agreement without having to pay her out?

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

As you mentioned, tenants are required under the Residential Tenancies Act to allow reasonable access for landlords to show prospective purchasers through the premises. Where reasonable access is not granted, the landlord can give the tenant notice telling the tenant to allow reasonable access. The landlord should also keep a copy for themselves. 

A template for notice can be downloaded from the Department of Building and Housing's website (www.dbh.govt.nz).

If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord could apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to determine access times, or for the tenancy to be terminated (the Tribunal will determine the appropriate outcome).  The landlord may also include as part of an application an order for exemplary damages, which can be a penalty payable by the tenant to the landlord for failure to allow reasonable access.

To discuss your situation further, or for information about applying to the Tenancy Tribunal, you can visit the Department of Building and Housing website (www.dbh.govt.nz), 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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