Repairs & rent reductions

Question from Arti updated on 21st September 2017:

Our tenants moved in in July. There was a dampness in a room due to leakage in the shower. A plumber fixed the leakage in front of the tenants at the time they moved in. We provided a dehumidfier but the tenants hardly use it so that their power bill doesn't get too high. On the weekend my husband went to access the dampness. He found the dehumidifier was off and the dampness was still there. He dried it a bit.

Now the tenants have demanded that we reduce the rent. Last week I went and completely dried the carpet. Shortly afterwards, my husband went to check and found dampness again. We notified the tenants that the plumber would come on Sunday. They said they wouldn't pay rent until it was fixed.So I gave them three weeks notice and they said we used them and they will only leave when they find another space. Is this acceptable?

 

Our expert Allan Galloway responded:

Both landlord and tenants have rights and responsibilities when something needs fixing. A landlord must provide the property in a reasonable state of repair and ensure the property is maintained by fixing any issues as soon as possible once they are aware of them. Tenants need to tell the landlord as soon as possible once they notice any damage to the premises, or anything that needs repair (such as a leaky shower). 

Unless a rent reduction has been ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal, it needs to be negotiated, agreed and recorded in writing by both the landlord and tenant. In this situation, a reduction in rent may be considered as recognition for the extra power used to dry out the remaining moisture caused by the leak and any loss of enjoyment or use of parts of the home.

A tenant that stops paying rent without permission puts the tenancy into rent arrears, which is a breach of the tenancy agreement.

Under section 51 of the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords cannot give three weeks’ notice to end the tenancy agreement, as this applies to tenants only. To avoid being penalised, you need to make yourself familiar with the minimum amounts of notice that both landlords and tenants are required to give.

For more on the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants when it comes to maintenance, rent arrears and giving the right amount of notice, go to www.tenancy.govt.nz or subscribe to our e-newsletter Landlord News 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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