Unhealthy rental

Jessica asks:
(updated on Thursday, August 27th 2015)

My partner recently found a property and had a look at it and applied for it to rent. The carpeting was stained and they said it would be cleaned. He paid the letting fee and one weeks rent in advance. At this time I had no time off work to view the property. So he took me along to view it when I had a chance. The carpet looks beyond cleanable, the house smells horrid, the blinds are broken and some of the curtains are stained. We were then told that the only water supply is tank water and we would have to buy and drink bottled water. I am six months pregnant and have been advised it is not safe for my child to bath in the water once she is born and I should not live there. But my partner has already signed the tenancy agreement. Can we get the one weeks rent in advance and letting fee back? We cannot move in there as it is totally unsuitable/unhealthy.

Our Experts Answer:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, options for terminating a tenancy once an agreement has been entered into (regardless of whether the tenancy has commenced) will depend on the type of tenancy in place. A periodic tenancy can be ended by the tenant giving a minimum of 21 days’ notice in writing (which can be given before the tenancy has commenced). A fixed term tenancy cannot be terminated by notice, but can be ended by mutual agreement between the parties, or by the Tenancy Tribunal in certain circumstances.

A landlord has an obligation under the Act to provide the premises in a reasonably clean and tidy condition, and also to ensure the premises complies with all of the relevant health, safety, and building regulations that apply to the premises. Where a landlord has not complied with their obligations under the Act the tenant should notify the landlord in the first instance of their concerns. If this does not resolve the matter, the tenant may give the landlord 14 days’ written notice to fix the problem. If the notice is not complied with, the tenant may make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. Such an application may include an order seeking termination of the tenancy, compensation for any loss incurred as a result of the landlord not complying with their obligations, exemplary damages if it is deemed that the landlord has committed an unlawful act, or a work order requiring the landlord to carry out the necessary work.

In the first instance, it is recommended that you discuss your concerns with the landlord to try and have the matter resolved, including whether they are happy to end the tenancy earlier, and reimburse you for the rent in advance and letting fee. If you are unable to resolve the matter directly with the landlord, you may wish to initiate the above steps by giving the landlord 14 days’ written notice to conduct the required work.

Information regarding a notice to remedy a breach and applicable service times can be viewed on our website by visiting: http://www.tenancy.govt.nz/maintenance-and-inspections/repairs-and-damages/.

For further information regarding landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities and potable water concerns, you can visit our website (www.tenancy.govt.nz), or you can speak to a member of our Tenancy Advice team by calling 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262), between 8.00am-5.30pm Monday to Friday.

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