Pet-friendly verbal agreement
Question from Dan updated on 21st June 2017:
Our written tenancy agreement says no pets. However, the landlord has given a verbal and informal written (email through his property manager and a phone call) permission for us to move in to the house with our two cats.
If things turn sour, and they want the cats gone - what kind of standing do we have? Obviously we don’t want to get rid of the cats but we want to know how contradictory tenancy and verbal agreements would work in this scenario.
Our expert Allan Galloway responded:
Where the landlord and tenant have entered into a tenancy agreement but then agree to change the terms of that agreement, the Residential Tenancies Act requires the variation to be in writing and be signed by the landlord and tenant. However, the Act also states that no agreement, or renewal or variation of an agreement, is unenforceable merely on the grounds that it is not in writing. The Ministry advises that all variations be in writing.
Where the parties have agreed to vary the contract verbally it is best practice to then record the change in writing, as soon as possible. Both the landlord and tenant should sign the changes. The changes can be in the form of a separate document or can be added to both the landlord’s and tenant’s copy of the tenancy agreement. Should a dispute arise about whether the parties had agreed to vary a clause in a tenancy agreement the Tenancy Tribunal would have jurisdiction to decide, on the balance of probability, what terms the parties had agreed to.
It should also be noted that email is recognised as a valid form of written correspondence under the Act, so we would advise that you keep a copy of the owner’s email for your records.
For further information regarding landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, you can visit our website at www.tenancy.govt.nz or subscribe to our tenancy landlord e-newsletter at www.tenancy.govt.nz/subscribe.
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.