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Threats Don’t Pay

Landlords have to be careful that they follow the regulations around tenancies to the letter – and a recent Tenancy Tribunal ruling is a good example of what can happen when they don’t.

By: Property Investor Team

1 April 2020

A Wellington landlord has been ordered to pay her tenants over $1,500 after the Tenancy Tribunal found her behaviour towards them was intentionally threatening.

One year after the tenancy began, in February 2018, the relationship between the two parties hit a rocky patch in a dispute over a garage. It then went from bad to worse when the landlord wanted to sell the house and show potential buyers through.

The landlord, Tanya Lieven, properly advised that she was selling the house and had been appointed as the real estate agent. But in the same email she notified the tenants she would be showing potential buyers the house from Monday to Friday between 10am and 5pm. She did not provide details of specific times and dates for viewings.

In response, the tenants’ sought 24 hours’ notice of the date and time of any viewings. The landlord was not prepared to be more specific. This led to the tenants refusing access and issuing a trespass notice.

The landlord abided by the notice but claimed it was illegal and an unlawful obstruction. In return, the tenants alleged the landlord had made several threats to them and had intentionally harassed them.

This host of claims and counter-claims-from both the tenants and the landlord about the matter meant the parties ended up at the Tribunal. But the Tribunal found in favour of the tenants.

Adjudicator Janet Robertshawe said “a general notice covering an extended period cannot be given to require tenants to accept unscheduled attendances during that period”.

“In this case, the tenants were acting reasonably to seek some basic conditions under s48(3A), such as 24-hours’ notice of an actual viewing.”

Robertshawe dismissed Lieven’s claims of breaches in relation to the trespass notice they issued. She also found that Lieven had engaged in conduct that became harassment in two situations, both involving statements that constituted threats.

“Lieven is a real estate agent and experienced landlord and ought to have had a better understanding of the tenants’ rights, and how to act professionally when differences arise,” she said. “Lieven’s behaviour has caused significant ongoing upset and distress to the tenants.”

For this reason, the tenants were awarded $1,520.44, made up of $500 in compensation, $1,000 in exemplary damages, and the filing fee of $20.44.

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