Tenants' right to quiet enjoyment

Penny asks:
(updated on Friday, May 29th 2020)

My husband and I recently signed a joint agreement with the landlord (also acting as agent), this agreement lines out the locations that are used by the landlord (a hut in the garden).

The landlord mis-sold us the arrangement by saying he stays on occasion to work on the property. Minimal work has been achieved and he spends approx 80% of his time in and around the hut in my garden. This invades privacy and feels as though he is living for free while we pay his mortgage.

The house is also mouldy, there are water leaks and a very old rusty roof which he agrees needs replacing (but still allowed us to move in). Furthermore, the walls are infested with ants causing infrastructure to degrade (small piles of saw dust around woodwork).

The tenancy agreement is almost finished, however if possible, I want to raise awareness on this as I very much enjoy living here. He wants to make changes to include he will be here often without restrictions. What is the law around this please?

Our Experts Answer:

Any extra conditions to a Tenancy Agreement beyond the standard clauses must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act. Additional conditions cannot breach a tenant’s entitlement to quiet enjoyment of the property, which is a tenants right to peace, privacy and comfort in their use of the premises under tenancy law. Any additional condition that conflicts with the Act is unenforceable.

You can speak to your landlord directly or through the Tenancy Services mediation services to try and resolve the issue of an unenforceable clause or behaviour that breaches your quiet enjoyment. If no agreement can be made, you can choose to make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal with your claim.

Tenants can’t refuse to pay rent while waiting for the landlord to fix something, but can try to negotiate a temporary rent reduction with their landlord. Landlords must also meet all legal building, health, and safety requirements. This means keeping the plumbing, electrical wiring and structure of the house safe and in working order and ensuring any use of the premises, including the hut, complies with local council bylaws or consent requirements.

A landlord also needs to ensure they follow the rules under the Act for access to a tenanted property and a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment if they need to access the property to carry out repairs. You should firstly try to speak to your landlord and reach an agreement about any maintenance issues.

If no agreement can be made, you can issue the landlord with a 14-day Notice to Remedy (a template can be found on tenancy.govt.nz). This gives them 14 days to get the work done. It’s worth noting a landlord can’t give notice to end a tenancy because the tenant has asked for repair or maintenance work to be done. This is called retaliatory notice.

Please note, these responses apply under normal circumstances. Under the current Covid-19 lockdown, you must continue to comply with the current lockdown rules and guidelines during this period. This includes recent changes in tenancy legislation, such as a freeze on rent increases and protections against tenancy terminations.

For more information see www.tenancy.govt.nz/about-tenancy-services/news/coronavirus-covid-19-what-landlords-and-tenants-need-to-know. For more information on disputes, see www.tenancy.govt.nz/disputes/. You can also subscribe to our e-newsletter Tenancy Matters here

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