Tenants want rent reduced, can they demand this?

Richard asks:
(updated on Tuesday, January 06th 2009)

I have tenants wanting to pay cheaper rent. They are trying to force the rent down by claiming compensation of $2300 for having to wait for maintenance to be done. Their complaint was nasty, frivolous and out of the blue. Tenants have paid $8000 over 26 weeks in rent since moving in, (they owe $600) and I've paid out $3000 in repairs already to keep tenants happy. The partner attending mediation, (whose name is not on the contract - (his wife refuses to attend) has taken it upon himself to pay $100 a week less than agreed and will raise that by $50.00 when all work that he currently wants done is completed - more than $4000 worth. He shouted down the property manager at 2 mediation hearings. The case is going to tribunal. Tenants are on a periodic lease. How soon can I give them the 12 week notice to vacate?

Our Experts Answer:

Tenants are not allowed to stop or reduce their rent payments, except where the property is so seriously damaged as to be uninhabitable through no fault of either party. If a landlord is not carrying out necessary repairs or maintenance work, the tenant must continue to pay the full rent, and can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. If the tenant does apply to the Tenancy Tribunal, they may be awarded compensation for maintenance not having been done if the adjudicator considers it appropriate in the circumstances. Where a tenant is less than 21 days in arrears, the landlord can give the tenant a 10 Working Days Notice requiring the arrears to be paid, and may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal also. Notice to end a periodic tenancy may be given by either party at any time. Landlords must give tenants at least 90 days’ notice in writing to end the tenancy. However, a landlord cannot give a tenant notice to end their tenancy simply because the tenant has exercised their rights as a tenant. This is known as retaliatory notice, and can include situations where a tenant has made a reasonable request for maintenance to be done. If a tenant considers that notice to terminate their tenancy is retaliatory, they can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal. If the Tribunal agrees that the notice is retaliatory, the notice may be set aside.

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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