Water damage responsibility

Kim asks:
(updated on Wednesday, October 14th 2015)

Our tenant gave notice to vacate so we decided it would be a good time to sell. We sent a real estate agent in for an appraisel and when he looked under the house he could see a large wet, mouldy patch and the flooring was soft to touch.

We sent a builder in and he discovered that the shower had a bright green algae on the outside of one corner and when he turned the shower on it was leaking from there across the floor. He also noted that the grout was missing from the bathroom tiles and white mould was visable. This leak has caused considerable damage to the bathroom, toilet and kitchen floors - as it has flowed underneath the tiles.

The property manager said it was not like that when she visited a month ago and the tenant said he had never noticed it. I find it hard to believe that this is a month's worth of damage and I don't believe that anyone could have a shower and not notice the wet area on the bathroom floor. Where should I go from here? Anywhere?

Our Experts Answer:

Tenants have an obligation under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to notify the landlord as soon as possible after the discovery of any damage to the premises, or of the need for any repairs. Landlords similarly have a responsibility to provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair.

In cases where repairs are needed but the damage is not clearly visible or goes undiscovered by the tenant, the responsibility for any subsequent damage caused becomes less certain. Similarly, where damage to the premises is discovered but not reported to the landlord, the tenant may be responsible for any further damage that occurs from the time of discovery.

We recommend you discuss the matter with your property manager/tenant in the first instance to see if all parties can come to an agreement regarding the damage. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, you or your property manager could make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved.

If you need any further assistance or advice please visit our website at www.tenancy.govt.nz or call our Tenancy Advice line on 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262) Monday to Friday between 8am and 5.30pm.

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