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Extra Tenant Unlawful

More people living in a rental property than is allowed under the tenancy agreement is a common problem, but a recent Tenancy Tribunal ruling shows why landlords should address this issue.

By: Property Investor Team

31 July 2020

Ensuring her rental property’s tenancy agreement limited the number of people allowed to live in a rental property has served a Dunedin landlord well.

Karen Anderson rented her property out to Colleen Atwood for an eightmonth period in 2019. The relationship quickly became acrimonious, resulting in three Tribunal hearings late in 2019.

One major issue was Atwood allowing her partner to live in the property too, despite requests that he leave. It led to Anderson obtaining a declaration from the Tribunal that the partner was not a tenant.

When the tenancy ended, the parties returned to the Tribunal to battle it out over a host of issues, including the claim that Atwood had exceeded the maximum number of people allowed to live at the property.

While the Tribunal returned a mixed set of findings on the claims, it came down firmly in Anderson’s favour on the subject of Atwood’s partner. That’s because the tenancy agreement specified that just one person was allowed to live in the property.

Anderson alleged that the tenant’s partner lived in the property for several months, despite requests for him to leave and the Tribunal order obtained on the issue.

Tribunal adjudicator J. Wilson found the tenant committed an unlawful act by allowing her partner to reside at the premises despite the landlord’s repeated requests for him to leave. The fact she failed to remove her partner from the property when asked to do so meant it was intentional.

It resulted in the break-down of the parties’ relationship, led to significant disputes throughout the tenancy, and meant the landlord suffered significant stress and anxiety.

“The legislation provides for a landlord to specify the maximum number of occupants in a tenancy agreement. It is in the public interest that tenants comply with the contractual arrangements they sign.”


Taking all the circumstances into account, Wilson found the breach by the tenant to be on the lower end of the scale but awarded exemplary damages (of $250). In total, the Tribunal ordered that Atwood pay $1,280 to Anderson.

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