Unfair exit for tenants?

Bess asks:
(updated on Tuesday, January 15th 2013)

I have an aunt whom is renting her home out, it is managed by a real estate company. The home is also up for sale and is down a cul-de-sac. Can she drive past her home whenever she feels like to keep an eye on things? Also, can she have a neighbour spy on the tenant to report any unusual behaviour? She says the neighbours are complaining to her about the tenant yelling at her grandchildren and that she has a lot of visitors that are not up to their liking. One day she followed the tenant home to see for herself. She has asked the real estate to end the tenancy agreement because she has family coming back to paint the house. But really she wants the tenants out because she believes that they will wreck her home. I feel that it is discrimination towards the tenant. I have told her this but she says that it is her house and she can do what she wants. What right does she have as an owner?

Our Experts Answer:

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act) only applies to the relationship between a landlord and tenant. Where a property owner has appointed an agent to manage the tenancy (and the owner is not listed on the tenancy agreement), the person (or company) named on the tenancy agreement will be considered the landlord. The Act may only apply to a property owner where the owner is the landlord for the purposes of the tenancy or where the owner is listed as the landlord on the tenancy agreement. From what you describe, your aunt does not appear to be the landlord, the real estate company is. Under the Act, landlords are prohibited from interfering with a tenant’s reasonable peace, comfort, and privacy in the use of the premises. Tenants also have an obligation to ensure that they do not interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of any of the landlord’s other tenants in the use of the premises or of the neighbours. Where the landlord or tenant consider that the other party is in breach of this obligation, they should try and reach an agreement in the first instance, following up the details in writing. If this does not resolve the problem, either party may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. In most cases landlords are required to give 90 days written notice to terminate a periodic tenancy (where a reason for the termination is not required), however, 42 days notice may be given in certain circumstances (including where the owner requires the premises as the principal place of residence for the owner or any member of the owner’s family). Fixed-term tenancy agreements cannot be ended by notice, but may be ended by mutual consent between both parties. Where a tenant considers that their landlord has unlawfully discriminated against them they may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved or raise their concerns with the Human Rights Commission on 0800 496 877 or by visiting their website (www.hrc.co.nz). For further information about landlord and tenant rights and obligations under the Act, you can visit the Department’s website (www.dbh.govt.nz), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

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