Providing tenants' quiet enjoyment

Question from marianne updated on 29th August 2016:

My landlords have agreed to ending our fixed term tenancy three months early.

This is because I have been putting up with them entering our property when ever they please for nine months now. I have tried asking then not to, but I suffer from severe anxiety and struggle to deal with conflict. There are random visits about five times a month. I invited them in once to maybe put their mind at ease. And two weeks later they requested a inspection with two hours notice.

Also, when a lighting problem happened in the bathroom they claimed to have called a professional to fix it but, after three days of waiting, no one showed up. I got a professional in at my own expense. I have also told them that there are a few wiring issues through out the house but they have done nothing. When I tried to grow grass on the property, because the dirt was so bad, they they weed sprayed it.

I was wondering if I should take legal action against them. I think they have been doing this to their tenants for a while as with in one year they had six new tenants .

Our expert Allan Galloway responded:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords can enter the premises at certain times, for certain things. But the landlord must also respect the tenant’s peace, comfort and privacy (this is called ‘quiet enjoyment’).

If the landlord needs to enter the premises (not including land or facilities), for example, to do an inspection or to fix something, they need to give at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property to do any necessary maintenance or repairs and at least 48 hours’ notice for a property inspection, or get the tenant’s permission (which can include where a landlord turns up without notice and the tenant is happy for them to enter). The landlord can also come inside if they have a Tenancy Tribunal order allowing entry, or if there is an emergency like a fire or flood.

Necessary maintenance or repairs should be done between 8am and 7pm. Any maintenance or repairs that are not necessary may be done at a mutually agreed time.

To carry out a property inspection, landlords can’t give notice more than 14 days before the inspection, and inspections must take place between 8am and 7pm. Inspections cannot be within four weeks’ of the last inspection.

Landlords don’t need to give notice or obtain the tenant’s permission to come onto the property (the land or facilities). This usually happens when a landlord has agreed to do things, like mow the lawns for the tenants. A landlord entering on to the property has to avoid interfering with the tenant’s ‘quiet enjoyment’.

Landlords have an obligation to provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair. Tenants are required to tell the landlord when repairs are needed. If a tenant or a landlord is required to fix something but doesn’t, the other party can issue them with a 14 day notice to remedy. This gives them 14 days to get the work done. If either the landlord or tenant does not comply with a 14-day notice to remedy, the other party can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for help.

Where repairs are needed which are not through any breach by the tenant and the state of disrepair is likely to cause injury to people or property or is otherwise serious and urgent, a tenant can have the repair work done and ask the landlord to pay them for it if they have given the landlord notice of the disrepair or made a reasonable attempt to do so.

In the first instance it is recommended that you discuss your concerns with your landlord, and follow this up by putting your concerns in writing.  If this does not fix the problem, you may wish to make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. Such an application could seek an amount of compensation for any breaches of the Act, and actual losses you have suffered, that are proven, and these may be awarded by the Tribunal.

Furthermore, where a fixed-term tenancy has been ended by mutual agreement, it is recommended that the terms and conditions of the early release are documented in writing.

For further information regarding landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, you can visit our website (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.

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