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How Maintaining a Rental Property Can Save Landlords Money

By Donna Jones

When starting a new residential tenancy, the signing of the tenancy agreements represents two things; firstly, the tenant(s) agree(s) to pay the rent and take care of the property, secondly the landlord agrees to provide and maintain the property in a reasonable state of repair.

If either party fails to hold up their end of the bargain, it can lead to an expensive and stressful ordeal for all involved. This point was driven home by a recent Wellington Tenancy Tribunal case.

What are residential tenants’ responsibilities?

The key responsibilities for tenants occupying rental properties are reasonably straight forward and easily achievable with some common sense and decency.

First and foremost, they must pay their rent on time and keep the property in a reasonably clean and tidy state. Part of maintaining the property is notifying their landlord of any damage or required repairs straight away.

Unless agreed to (and covered in the tenancy agreement) tenants must pay their own expenses such as internet, gas, electricity, etc.

When the tenancy comes to an end the tenant(s) must clean the property to a reasonable standard and clear all rubbish and possessions, leave all property keys with their landlord, and leave behind any items that were supplied as part of the tenancy.

What are landlords responsible for?

During a residential tenancy, the landlord’s responsibilities include making sure their rental property is in a reasonable condition and allowing their tenant(s) to have quiet enjoyment of the home.

Landlords are obligated to maintain the premises, keeping all features and systems in good working order. This applies to any appliance that was part of the tenancy at the time the contract was formed.

When carrying out maintenance of amenities within the home or on the grounds, they must remember that their tenants have signed on to live in a property offering a specific level of comfort and condition and pay the rent they do for this very service.

For instance, if the Property Condition Report the tenant(s) signed off on before moving in mentions a log burner fireplace and a washing machine, these need to stay in the property, and if they deteriorate the landlord is responsible for having them repaired or replaced with a comparable and equally efficient substitute.

What happens when a landlord doesn’t maintain a property?

Late in 2019, the Tenancy Tribunal at Wellington had a hearing for a case in point where a landlord failed to maintain a significant feature of the house — the heat pump.

The large heat pump supplied heat to the expansive open-plan living area and several rooms in the property via ducting, making it an efficient and economical heating source for the property. When the unit stopped working the tenants informed their landlord, who was reluctant to replace it due to the high estimated cost involved and instead supplied the Wellington rental property with two 2400-watt radiant fan heaters. These didn’t match the heating ability or economy of the heat pump.

A dispute between the tenants and the landlord over whether or not the heat pump needed to be replaced continued for a number of months, through a cold Wellington winter.

When the dispute went to the Tribunal, the judge ruled in favour of the tenants, awarding them:
Exemplary damages of $1,500 for the landlord’s failure to maintain the premises
Compensation for electricity usage (due to the replacement fan heaters not being as efficient as the heat pump) of $576
Compensation in form of a 7.5% rent reduction to the tune of $1,631
A filing fee reimbursement of $20

A lesson in looking at the larger picture

This Wellington landlord’s failure to maintain their rental property to the agreed standard ended up costing them $3,728.40 and 25 weeks of undue stress. This amount would have made up around half of the bill to repair/replace the heat pump and could have gone towards that if only the landlord had the foresight to see the potential Tribunal case and the hidden cost of not meeting his obligations.

As a leading Christchurch property management company, we help our landlord clients and their tenants stay aware of their rights and responsibilities. Our knowledgeable team share information with landlords and act on their behalf to help them save money and achieve a better return on their investment.

Learn more about the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you with your rental property.

Image:
Buring [sic] Money’ by Purple Slog via CC BY 2.0.

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