Wanting to leave

Question from Kate updated on 17th August 2015:

I am living in a flat conversion - me upstairs and someone in the basement. We have had major power problems and have discovered that we are both paying about the same amount to different power companies. My power company has done a load test on both flats and they are not connected as we thought. Both flats have had bills of $280 for the last three months. I've rung local council and discovered that this is an unpermitted conversion. When doing the load test, the electrician discovered that two of the fuses had melted and were in pretty unsafe condition. There are no fire alarms in either flat and mine has only one entrance (no other exit in case of fire). I am now wanting to leave as I feel unsafe. Is this sufficient to break the tenancy and would this be something we could take to Tenancy Tribunal?

Our expert Alan Bruce responded:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, a landlord has an obligation to comply with all legal requirements in respect of building, health and safety so far as they apply to your rented premises. In the first instance you should raise your concerns with the landlord and ask them to address the concerns you have.

Where this does not resolve the matter, a tenant can give the landlord a notice to remedy the situation, and if not complied with, they 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 an unlawful act has occurred which has resulted in the tenant being able to demonstrate they have suffered a loss as a result of the breach.

You could also seek termination of the agreement. You will only be able to give notice to terminate your tenancy if you have a ‘periodic’ (on-going) tenancy agreement. A fixed-term tenancy cannot be ended before the agreed end date by either party giving notice.  

Information on other possible options to end your fixed-term agreement be can be found on our website at www. tenancy.govt.nz

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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