Bill Bevan - Tenancy Issues - 22 May
This week concludes our segment looking at residential tenancy issues and answers two more viewer questions on the topic.
Viewer Q1: Hassan
I have been renting my current property for around seven years. A property manger became our landlord in April this year and I was advised that by law I had to sign a new agreement. This agreement had many new terms including one that prevented me keeping pets, which I've always had. I was also given notice that my rent would increase from $180 to $235 in 60 days. I refused to sign this new agreement and was then given a 90-day notice to leave the premises. I am shocked at the way me and my family have been treated. We wish to stay at the property to enable our child to finish intermediate school this year. Can you suggest any action I may be able to take?
A: As a sitting tenant, Hassan is under no legal obligation to sign a new contract with the new landlord. The old contract governs the terms and conditions of the tenancy and if that agreement permitted pets to be kept&then the new landlord is stuck with that condition.
If the landlord is terminating the tenancy because Hassan is insisting on his right to keep pets then that termination notice might be considered "retaliatory".
A notice is retaliatory if it is motivated "wholly or partly by the exercise by the tenant of any right, power, authority, or remedy conferred on the tenant by the tenancy agreement
However an application alleging the notice is retaliatory must be made to the Tribunal within 14 working days of receiving the notice. If the Tribunal accepts that the notice is retaliatory it can declare it of no effect.
Hassan can also apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to challenge the new rent if the new rent substantially exceeds market rent in his area.
The Tribunal can adjust rent if the excess is considered substantial.
Whether $235 exceeds the market rent will depend on what "a willing landlord might reasonably expect to receive and a willing tenant might reasonably expect to pay for the tenancy, taking into consideration the general level of rents for comparable tenancies of comparable premises in the locality".
Viewer Q2: Sheena of Palmerston
My ex landlord sold the house I was renting and I was given 42 days to move out. After I moved I claimed the bond back off him and he told me he'd paid it to the new owner and I should contact him. The new landlord didn't know anything about the bond and I have since found out that it was never even paid to the bond centre. I haven't kept any receipt for the bond as I was in the house for 5 years although I do have a copy of the contract I signed which states the amount of the bond. What can I do to get this money ?
A: A landlord has 23 working days to pay any money they receive as bond to the Bond centre. A failure to do this is an illegal act under the Residential Tenancies Act and the the landlord faces a penalty of up to $750 if the tenant brings a claim in the Tenancy Tribunal.
In Sheena's case she should apply to the Tribunal for repayment of her bond and also ask for a penalty for breach of the Act. as does any attempt to charge a bond in excess of 4 weeks rent.