Landlords ‘too lenient’ when tenants go off rails

5:00 AM Tuesday Jun 10, 2014
By Nikki Preston NZ Herald

Landlords are too lenient when a tenant falls behind in rent or causes damage, property managers say.

Of the 39,808 claims lodged with the Tenancy Tribunal between July 13 and May 2014, 74 per cent were for rent arrears and 6 per cent were for damage.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand property management group chairman David Faulkner said landlords needed to put in an application to the Tenancy Tribunal as soon as the tenant starting slipping behind in rent. A tenant is given 14 days to resolve a breach of the tenancy agreement before an application could be heard. The applicants could either first go to mediation or a hearing date – an average of 22.5 days after the application was made – would be set at the court.

“A private landlord would probably try and resolve the situation face to face whereas a property manager would say ‘right if you haven’t paid by this date, we will make an application’.”

Barfoot and Thompson director Kiri Barfoot, whose firm manages Auckland residential properties, said the problems could often be avoided altogether through correct screening and putting the right tenant in the property in the first place.

“Private landlords often go, ‘the tenants are really nice so I won’t follow the procedure or [I'll] let them get away with it’ and the tenant realises that and takes advantage.”

Landlords who were going to manage their own properties needed to carry out the credit checks, call references and carry out their own research on prospective tenants.

Harcourts Monarch Realty Limited general manager Melanie Yeoman said private landlords tended to forget about doing regular inspections or carrying out the right checks.

“You can tell a tenant is going Awol far before they trash a house normally.” She also said landlords interviewing prospective tenants should go with their gut feeling and also do a credit check via the Tenancy Information New Zealand website.

America-based property investor Wayne Frederick said in the 20 years he had rented out properties he had never had a problem with bad tenants and put it down to doing vigilant background searches including checking court records and Facebook for tell-tale signs. “Owners need to watch and take care of their property. Treat tenants right and screen their tenants. If the prospective tenant has had one problem don’t rent to them.”

A landlord

Simon Standing’s dream of having an investment property to fund his retirement turned into a nightmare when the tenant wrecked the property and shot at a wall with a slug gun, leaving dents all over it.

The Whangarei father-of-two had to pay $12,000 to fix the damage, which included repainting the property from the ceiling down after the tenant vacated last year.

The three-bedroom property with a garage rented for $340 per week and had only been recently redecorated before Mr Standing’s family moved out and the tenant moved in a year earlier.

The Tenancy Tribunal awarded him $3750 in damages and to keep the bond of $1350, which almost covered the $1600 in rent arrears after the tenants stopped paying rent when they handed in their notice.

A renter

Solo-father Tony Westmoreland has to wait for months to get anything fixed in his two-bedroom rental and says the lawns have been mown once in the past year.

However, the Auckland product developer said the property management firm did not mess around when it came to putting up the rent on his tiny unit in Panmure, which has gone up $10 to $400 a week after one year of living there.

The 53-year-old, who has rented for six years, said he also had very little say and was expected to succumb to the property manager’s demands.

His property was broken into last year leaving the windows at the back of the house smashed. He said the agency would reimburse him only after he had paid for the damage to be fixed and provided a police report.

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