Rent on illegal sleepout

Question from Belinda updated on 30th August 2019:

We are living with an illegal gas installation; a pest of a landlord (eg: turns up with no notice, didn't lodge bond; lied about insulation); an illegal sleepout,  and many other issues. Can we now only pay half rent due to the two bedroom sleepout being illegal? We have a tenancy hearing in three weeks. What else can you advise?

Our expert Jennifer Sykes responded:

For the purposes of the response, we have assumed the sleep out is self-contained and is not shared with the landlord.

Under the new Residential Tenancies Amendment Act  2019 which comes into effect on 27 August 2019, landlords of rentals that cannot legally be lived in must comply with all legal requirements relating to buildings and health and safety that apply to the premises. They must also ensure that the premises can legally be lived in at the start of a tenancy in line with new legislative requirements.

If you are deemed to be a tenant, you are legally responsible for paying the rent in full. Tenants cannot refuse to pay rent or only pay a portion of rent while waiting for the landlord to fix something. Non-payment of rent is a breach of the RTA and could result in the landlord taking counter-action to have the matter resolved.

You have raised a number of issues of concern in your query that we have responded to in brief below. More detailed information on each of these subjects can be found on www.tenancy.govt.nz:

• Gas installation: Unsafe gas installation work can be a safety concern. It is recommended that you urgently raise this with the local council and with WorkSafe to seek their advice on the matter.

• Quiet enjoyment: Landlords need to give the correct notice to access the property ; at least 48 hours’ notice for house inspections. Landlords can conduct a house inspection only once in any four week period. There are other entry notice periods: like landlords can also access the house to do work to comply, or prepare to comply, with the healthy homes standards. They must still give 24 hours’ written notice to the tenants before entering.

• Insulation: A tenant who believes they are living in a rental property that does not comply with 1 July 2019 insulation requirements has options that include applying to the Tenancy Tribunal using the online form at www.tenancy.govt.nz.

• Bond: Any bonds received should be lodged with Tenancy Services within 23 working days of receiving the bond. A landlord who fails to lodge a bond may be liable to pay up to $1,000.

For more information on any of the above issues go to www.tenancy.govt.nz. 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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