"Unhealthy house" options?

Question from Shane updated on 4th October 2015:

We signed a tenancy agreement that was listed via a reputable property manager. The property was managed by a relative of the off-shore owner who had power of attorney. When we met the property manager at the property to collect the keys no inspection process took place. When he left we discovered mould on every curtain, on the walls in most rooms and on some ceiling areas. We did not expect this in a $620 a week rental.

 

We viewed this property under duress as the sitting tenant had a death in the family and we were rushed through by the agent. We are landlords ourselves and would not let an unhealthy house to anyone. The owners’ rep has let us out of the one year tenancy - but denies there is a mould issue and has kept our one week advance rent payment. What are our options here? Is this legal?

Our expert Alan Bruce responded:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, landlords have an obligation at the start of the tenancy to provide the premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness. Landlords also have a responsibility to ensure the premises are maintained in a reasonable state of repair (while having regard to the age and character of the premises and the period it is likely to remain habitable).

Where a tenant feels that their landlord is not meeting these responsibilities, a tenant can give the landlord a notice to remedy the situation. If this is not complied with, a tenant can make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. Such an application could include a “work order”, an order requiring the landlord to remedy the breach, and an order for “exemplary damages”, a monetary sum awarded to the tenant should it be deemed that the landlords failure to maintain the premises constituted an unlawful act which resulted in the tenant being able to demonstrate they have suffered a loss as a result of the breach.

Where a party to a fixed-term tenancy agreement wishes to be released before the agreed end date, one option for doing this is by mutual agreement. Any such agreement should record in writing the terms of the agreement and be signed and dated by both parties. Information regarding ending a fixed-term tenancy early by mutual agreement and other options can be found on our website at http://www.tenancy.govt.nz/ending-a-tenancy/ending-a-fixed-term-early/.

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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