Wanting out - cold house

Ashpak asks:
(updated on Saturday, August 10th 2013)

I have recently moved from Auckland to Dunedin and am renting a property with a six-month term lease. After moving in I found out that the property is not at all insulated and withing 25 days I've already used $400 worth of electricity. The house is not at all keeping warm and requires a continuous heatpump along with a heater to be switched on. I have told my property manager that I want to move out as the energy cost is too high to afford. The property manager me get this house said I would have to pay a break lease fee and give 21 days notice to vacate. Now she has left the company and the new one replacing her told me that I have to pay the rent until the end of my tenacny. There is nothing mentioned in my contract letter like this. Please help me.

Our Experts Answer:

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act) does not make any reference to the provision of insulation in rental properties. However, the Act states that landlords are responsible for ensuring that premises comply with all relevant health, safety, and building regulations that apply to the premises. Furthermore, a landlord is responsible for ensuring that the premises are maintained in a reasonable state of repair, having regard to the age and character of the premises. The Building Code sets out the standards that buildings (including residential premises) must meet. However, buildings are only required to comply with the Building Code that was in force at the time the building was built or altered. For more information about the regulations that may apply to a particular premises, you can contact the council in the area the property is located. The Act also states that a fixed term tenancy cannot be ended by either party giving notice to terminate the contract before the agreed end date. Fixed term tenancies can only be ended early:  By mutual agreement between the landlord and the tenant(s);  If the property undergoes a mortgagee sale;  Where the premises are destroyed, or so seriously damaged as to be uninhabitable; or  in certain circumstances, by the Tenancy Tribunal. If all parties agree to terminate a fixed term tenancy early (including any terms and conditions agreed to such as a break fee), the details of that agreement should be recorded in writing, preferably on the tenancy agreement. Any variation to a tenancy agreement that is not in writing may still be enforceable, however, difficulties often arise if the parties dispute what was verbally agreed to. You should also check the terms and conditions of your agreement to see if it allows the tenant to assign the tenancy. Assignment is where you may be able to be released from your fixed term tenancy if suitable replacement tenants can be found. Further information regarding this process can be found on our website here: http://www.dbh.govt.nz/tenancy-ending-fixed-term-info. I suggest you discuss the arrangement you had with the previous property manager with your current property manager. Alternatively, you may also wish to discuss whether there is an option available to resolve the high heating costs. If you are unable to reach an agreement, but believe you had mutually agreed to end the fixed term with your previous property manager, you may wish to make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. To discuss your situation further, or for information about ending a fixed term tenancy early, you can visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s website (www.dbh.govt.nz), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

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