Who's responsible for damage?

Question from Jo updated on 1st March 2015:

I have completed a final inspection on my property as the tenant has just vacated. There are several items that are damaged. Some of these items were listed on previous inspections, I requested for her to repair them but they have not been done. One is the carpets which she has stained. Professional cleaning has not repaired it however I do not know how old the carpets are as we have only had the house two years. How do we judge fair depreciation if we don't know how old they are? The other items she says are not her responsibility and has now obtained letters from builders and glaziers to say these items are maintenance issues and not abuse. I.e ranch slider window is broken and it's not her responsibility because she says there was a little crack in the glass. A damaged bedroom door is not her responsibility as it was catching on the floor and fell to bits however no makes on the floor or bottom of the door. Should this be my responsibility? How do we sort this out?

Our expert Alan Bruce responded:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act), tenants are responsible for leaving the premises in a reasonably clean and tidy condition at the end of the tenancy, and for any damage they or their invited guests cause carelessly or intentionally during the tenancy. Tenants also have an obligation to notify the landlord of any damage to the premises as soon as possible after discovery of the damage. Where a tenant fails to inform their landlord of any damage, they may be responsible for any further damage that occurs. Landlords have an obligation under the Act to maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair, while having regard to the age and character of the premises and the period that the premises will be available habitable and available for residential purposes. Tenants are not responsible for repairs or damage arising from fair wear and tear. Whether damage to the premises is considered to be the landlord or tenant’s responsibility would depend on the specifics of each individual set of circumstances. I suggest you discuss your concerns with your tenant(s) in the first instance to try and reach an agreement regarding the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy. You may also wish to speak to a carpet repair professional regarding carpet depreciation, including what the likely age of the carpet is, the life expectancy of the carpet, and an indication of a fair amount to consider by way of depreciation that may be suitable in this situation. If you are unable to reach an agreement with the tenant(s) regarding responsibility for the damage, or further monies owed, you may wish to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter decided on. In making a judgement an adjudicator will take into account the age and condition of the premises, depreciated value, and the cause and extent of the damage. To discuss your situation further, or for further information regarding responsibility for damage, you can call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262) between 8.00am-5.30pm Monday to Friday to speak with a member of our Tenancy Advice team. You can also visit our website: 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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