Who pays for removal of rubbish?

Jody asks:
(updated on Friday, June 24th 2011)

Our property manager and tenant made an agreement together to have the tenants rubbish removed from the property (which there was a lot of) by a caretaker hired by the property manager, the tenant had agreed to pay for this to happen. The rubbish removal ended up being quite costly and the tenant now refuses to pay, and I now have been lumbered with the debt. I refuse to pay this account as the agreement wasn't authorised by me. Do I have a leg to stand here?

Our Experts Answer:

In relation to the costs for removal of the rubbish that have already been incurred, the responsibility for payment for the service will depend on the various agreements in place in relation to the tenancy. This includes what the terms of the agreement were between the property manager and the tenant when the tenant agreed to pay, and on the details of your agreement as owner with the property manager, for example whether the property manager was acting on your behalf.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 applies only to the relationship between a tenant and landlord, and not to the relationship between an owner and their property manager. If you dispute that you owe any money to the property manager, you may need to pursue the matter in a forum such as the Disputes Tribunal.

If you are unable to negotiate an agreement with the property manager, I suggest you seek independent legal advice from a solicitor or local community law centre. Tenants have a responsibility under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to leave the premises in a reasonably clean and reasonably tidy condition, and remove or arrange for the removal of all rubbish from the premises.

If the tenant has breached their obligation under the Act, the landlord may be able to seek a remedy in the Tenancy Tribunal. This will depend on the particular circumstances involved.

To discuss your situation further, or for information about landlord and tenant responsibilities, you can visit the Department of Building and Housing website (www.dbh.govt.nz), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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