Recovering arrears overseas

Question from Linda updated on 1st January 1970:


My tenants abandoned my property leaving considerable rental arrears. I tried for a couple of months to contact them and sort things out, rather than involving the Tenancy Tribunal. When I finally lodged a dispute I was advised that I needed a more current address. I now find they are living in Brisbane and the Tribunal is not able to serve them there. How else can I go about trying to recover the rental arrears? Kind regards, Linda

Our expert responded:

If you know where the tenants are living in Brisbane you could engage a Brisbane process server or debt collection agent to confirm the address they are living in. You could include that address in your application to the Tenancy Tribunal and ask for the Tribunal to release the application to you to manage service through a process server that you pay for. Your agents could then use that address for serving the Tenancy Tribunal application. You should consider the costs of engaging the Brisbane agent against the amount of the debt due. S91A(2) of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 sets out some options for how a notice or document has to be served if you are making your application to the Tenancy Tribunal more than two months after termination of the tenancy. The Brisbane agent could serve the document personally on that tenant or deliver it to the address where the tenant is now living and give the documents to someone who appears to be living at that address and is over 16 years old and who confirms that tenant is residing there. Even if the Tenancy Tribunal accepted that service had been made and subsequently made an order for rent arrears, enforcement of the order would be difficult for you based in New Zealand against the debtor based in Australia. Given the difficulty with enforcement of debt where the respondent is overseas you may need to seek legal advice to confirm the available options. However, a Tenancy Tribunal order is enforceable for six years, so you may want to have an order made so you can use it if you become aware the tenant has returned to New Zealand. If you learn of the tenant’s return and know their address for service you could consider enforcement action at that time.

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