It’s not enough to put a heat pump into a rental property, landlords need to make sure they are in good working order or they could pay – as a new Tenancy Tribunal ruling shows.
1 December 2019
Heat pumps moved firmly into the spotlight with the enshrining in law of the Healthy Homes minimum standards earlier this year. While rental properties don’t have to have a heat pump, they are widely considered to be one of the more effective ways of meeting the new heating requirements.
But they can be expensive to install, fix and replace and that’s something landlords will need to think about going forward. This issue is highlighted by a recent Tenancy Tribunal decision which revolved around a broken heat pump and did not end well for the landlord.
A group of Wellington tenants took their landlord, Lifestyle Rental Properties Ltd, to the Tribunal after they discovered the heat pump in their rental property didn’t work. Before heading to the Tribunal, they had informed their landlord in writing that it needed to be fixed. But the repairs never happened.
The landlord decided that the estimated repair cost of $7,500 was prohibitive and refused to replace the heat pump. Instead he supplied the tenants with two 2400-watt radiant fan heaters and the dispute continued. The tenants then went to the Tribunal claiming that the landlord had committed an unlawful act.
While the Tribunal understood the landlord’s hesitancy around the costs, they said there was a responsibility to
maintain the property with all features and systems in good working order. And, as the heat pump was an important asset to the property, that responsibility applied to it as well.
If the landlord had been able to replace the heat pump with another form of heating that covered all the existing heat pump’s features, this would have been an acceptable alternative. But that wasn’t the case and so the Tribunal found the landlord’s refusal to replace the heat pump was an unlawful act.
The Tribunal found the tenants were left in a powerless position due to this and ordered exemplary damages for them as a result. The tenants also claimed compensation for the loss of rental value that resulted from not having a heat pump, as well as additional costs incurred in heating the house.
After taking into consideration a range of determining factors, the Tribunal ordered that the tenants be paid $3,728.40 in exemplary damages and compensation.