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23-03-2009

Complaints about stubborn landlords

NZHERALD

Complaints against landlords are increasing, with failure to carry out repairs or return bonds the biggest problems for renters.

The Auckland branch of the Tenants Protection Association dealt with almost 100 people in February - a 45 per cent rise on the same month last year.

Co-ordinator Angela Maynard said disputes over maintenance were definitely increasing, with landlords asking tenants to pay for repairs including faulty stoves or broken pipes.

"They want tenants to pay for things they're obligated to pay for under the law," Maynard said.

Owners often promised to carry out repairs when tenants moved in, but didn't always complete the work.

"Those quite often end up in the Tenancy Tribunal, or at least in mediation," Maynard said.

It seems most renters have a horror story - or know someone who does.

One Auckland renter went to mediation after having bond money withheld to pay for a faulty shower and commercial cleaning.

She had emails from the landlord confirming the shower was broken when she moved in and there was no requirement in the lease for commercial cleaning. The money was released after mediation.

Maynard said more renters were signing fixed-term leases, which led to problems when tenants wanted to leave early. Renters could be forced to pay out the rest of their lease if the landlord or property manager won't agree to an early exit. "People sometimes find that news alarming and surprising," Maynard said.

The association's Christchurch branch also reported a rise in bond disputes.

Manager Helen Gatonyi said some landlords waited months to refund the bond, despite raising no objections about the state of the property.

Landlords can ask for up to one month's rent in bond, which should be held with Tenancy Services for the duration of the tenancy. Both landlord and tenant must sign off for the bond to be released, and either party can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to settle a dispute.

The tribunal was unable to say whether applications were increasing, but the New Zealand Property Investors Federation confirmed a rise in cases brought by tenants. Chief executive Martin Evans said many were trying to break a fixed-term tenancy early because of a change of circumstance or to take up a cheaper rental.

"We're also noticing that people getting into rent arrears are not the normal ones. It's people from across the board finding themselves in difficulties."

The Government plans changes to a bill introduced before last year's election which would have given greater protection to tenants. Housing Minister Phil Heatley plans to add more provision for landlords to deal with abusive tenants and recover the cost of damages from them.

 

A quick glance at a Trade Me messageboard this week reveals stories of landlords asking tenants to pay unreasonable cleaning costs after moving out, failing to lodge bonds with Tenancy Services and refusing to carry out maintenance work despite promising to do so when increasing the rent.

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