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Get Tenancy Tribunal Ready

Donna Russell outlines the evidence you’ll need to collect before you head to the Tenancy Tribunal.

By: Donna Russell

1 February 2018

As landlords we invest in property as a business and whilst the reasons for that business can vary it is inevitable - we’re all in the game together.

It would stand to reason that if the investment plays out well things are rosy, but needless to say as with any investment there are risks, and when things don’t go right we need to have a back-up plan.

Ultimately this may be in the form of outside assistance to intervene and mediate. A mediated order may be sufficient. These are easy to apply for and are conducted via telephone so are reasonably unintrusive and effective. However, if mediation is unsuccessful you may find yourself headed for the Tenancy Tribunal and that’s where preparation is key.

The Right Evidence

The Tenancy Tribunal is a formal hearing where an adjudicator makes the decision as to what is right and what is wrong. Your job is to present your case so there is no doubt that the tenant has faltered with their obligations. Sounds easy right?

The evidence required these days is considerably more than what was expected ten years ago. Rightly or wrongly that’s just the way it is. If you are claiming for rent arrears a full tenant ledger must be provided which is clear and easy for the adjudicator to understand. (Each adjudicator may have a different idea on what that ledger should look like). You too must be able to understand it and identify at what point the arrears occurred, the amount of arrears as at today, what is due in the next payment, and if there been a history of arrears. Any hesitation could indicate that you are unsure and therefore may have made an error in the accounting.

In the event you are going for damages, a full pre-tenancy report would be expected, coupled with a full bond inspection report, each of which should have labelled photographs and a thorough condition report.

❝ The evidence required these days is considerably more than what was expected ten years ago ❞

Tribunal Outcomes

But what happens if you get an adjudicator who doesn’t agree? Here are just a handful of outcomes I have experienced;

  • A family of four lived in a two-bedroom unit for two years. At the end of the tenancy they failed to get the carpets cleaned and a claim was made for reimbursement. The curtains also had an excessive amount of mould on the linings due to being closed constantly and lack of airflow. This was mentioned in all of the routine inspection reports. The adjudicator deemed that the carpet was not in good condition at the commencement of the tenancy (due to a pot plant stain) and therefore they would not be held liable for carpet cleaning, and assumed the curtains were in a poor state at the commencement of the tenancy and did not hold the tenant liable for cleaning or replacement of these.
  • Most recently I attended a hearing where the landlord was seeking termination of a tenancy due to excessive meth readings in almost every room. Despite the tenant attending and the issue being explained to her, the adjudicator did not award termination, instead sending the landlord away to issue a seven-day notice letter under S59 of the Residential Tenancies Act.
  • A tenant was a week behind in the rent and had been for a matter of months whilst the process of the 14-day letter, mediation and eventually the Tenancy Tribunal occurred. He made no effort to return calls, texts or respond to letters or visits. And did not attend the hearing. It was requested by the landlord that a conditional order be granted stating the arrears must be paid by a certain date otherwise the tenancy would terminate. The adjudicator dismissed this request and wrote an order stating the debt would need to be lodged through a collection agency (and the tenant got to stay!).

So be aware if attending the Tribunal have all your facts and evidence and make sure you can explain what you are claiming for and why the tenant is in breach. Expect the unexpected!

Donna Russell - RE/MAX Central/Russell Hardie Property Management (M) 027 223 2826 (E) [email protected] (W) remax.co.nz (W) russelhardie.co.nz “For all your Real Estate and Property Management needs”

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