“This prosecution is significant in that it is the first time the Government has pursued a landlord for failing to provide a warm, dry, safe home. Last year’s tenancy reforms enabled the ministry to directly prosecute landlords rather than relying on tenants to take an action in the Tribunal. The law change also introduced a requirement for smoke alarms, home insulation by July 2019 and strengthened tenancy protection when taking Tribunal cases over substandard rentals,” Dr Smith says.
Manurewa landlord Satya Silan has been ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal to refund $15,840 in rent and pay $750 in exemplary damages for renting an unconsented garage as a home to a family with a young child.
“The strong message to landlords from this prosecution is that properties should not be tenanted unless they are warm, dry and safe. I also encourage councils, welfare groups, student associations and others to pass on to the new Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team more cases of this sort, particularly those with vulnerable tenants.”
The Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team was established late last year following the passage of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act and has been provided with a budget of $2.6 million this financial year and $3.3 million next year. The team has received 242 complaints to date, found 26 involved no breach, reached a compliance agreement with landlords in 76 cases, provided advice to landlords in 55 cases and to date has lodged cases with the Tribunal in three cases involving 199 properties.
“It is not the intention of MBIE to prosecute in every case, but to improve compliance. Prosecutions are focused on the worst cases, where landlords have not acted in good faith or where landlords have a track record of poor compliance. We encourage tenants to generally take issues over substandard rentals themselves to the Tribunal, particularly with the added protections against retaliatory action provided in the 2016 reforms.
“The new Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team is performing a valuable role in improving the standard of New Zealand’s rental homes.”