Repairs refund dispute

Nigel asks:
(updated on Friday, July 17th 2020)

Between tenants we had repairs carried out to a toilet and laundry in our rental. The incoming tenants were informed - via our property manager - that the repair was going to take longer than planned due to unforeseen water damage.

The new tenants took occupancy of the property although the repair work was still ongoing. They are now retrospectively requesting a refund in rent on the grounds that the house they signed up to was not fully functional. There was still a functioning toilet and bathroom within the property. Are we as landlords obliged to reimburse rent?

 

Our Experts Answer:

It is the landlord’s responsibility to provide and maintain rental premises in a reasonable state of repair while a tenant is living in the property. If a landlord needs to enter the rental premises to carry out necessary repair work, such as water damage, they would need to give the correct notice of at least 24 hours. The repairs for this work should be done between 8am and 7pm.

If there is a dispute regarding ongoing repairs, the landlord (which sounds like the property manager in this case) should firstly speak to the tenant to try and reach an agreement. Both landlord and tenant should have previously reached an agreement in writing on how long the repairs will take and the impact of those repairs if they began before the commencement of the tenancy.

The initial agreement will be important to any future agreement and the outcome of this situation. As the repair work is taking longer than expected, a new agreement could be put in place. As a tenant pays rent in exchange for the full use of the property, a rent reduction could be considered while the tenant does not have full access during this timeframe.

It’s also worth noting that under the law, a tenant is “entitled to have quiet enjoyment of the premises without interruption by the landlord or anyone at the premises on the landlord’s behalf”. While the repairs are necessary, the landlord should consider the impact the repair work will have on the tenants “quiet enjoyment” and factor this into any new agreement with the tenant.

A rent reduction or any other arrangement needs to be negotiated and agreed in writing between both parties. If the dispute continues without an agreement able to be reached, either party can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. Any agreements made in writing relating to this dispute will be required as evidence.

For more information on the Tenancy Tribunal, go to tenancy.govt.nz/disputes/tribunal/. You can also subscribe to our e-newsletter Tenancy Matters here

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