Strict rules for landlords and tenants on the farm

By Emma Coburn


A common query to the 0800FARMING line relates to employees living in employer-provided accommodation.

The service tenancies raise some tricky issues, merging laws covering employment and landlord/tenant relationships.

The tenancy relationship exists because of the employment, so it should end at the same time, although there are exceptions.

Service tenancies are fully covered by the Residential Tenancies Act but have some special rules.

Section 40 and 45 - the landlord and tenant's responsibilities, including cleanliness and repair and ensuring reasonable peace and privacy of all tenants.

Section 48 - the landlord's rights of entry. Rights are limited to being only by consent of the tenant immediately before, or at the time of entry, in an emergency, or to undergo inspections, maintenance and repairs if notice is given beforehand.

Section 51 - the requirements for landlords terminating a tenancy. The notice must be in writing, identify the premises, specify the date when the tenant is required to leave and be signed by the landlord.

Section 53 - extra provisions for tenancy termination. Landlords, or tenants, must give a minimum 14 days' written notice to terminate, unless the landlord reasonably believes the tenant will cause substantial damage to the premises, or the landlord has to appoint a replacement employee needing the accommodation. Tenant employees cannot be forced to leave before their employment ends.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's building and housing group's website, www.dbh.govt.nz, has a full guide to the rights and duties of both parties.

Common questions


My employee has abandoned their employment and the house, leaving some of things. I urgently need to house new tenants. Can I remove their things?

Before removing any property from the house, the tenancy must be terminated. Ensure you give the two weeks' notice to vacate the property when employment ends. This can sometimes be shortened when there are incoming tenant employees.

When a tenant abandons the house and stops paying rent, apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a termination order on the grounds of abandonment.

Once the order is given, the tenancy has been terminated.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 allows landlords to dispose of perishable goods left behind.

For other items, landlords must make all reasonable efforts to contact the tenant to agree on a period for the goods' collection.

Where impossible, landlords must securely store personal documents such as passports and power bills.

Items such as furniture, books and televisions can be assessed for market value. If values are below storage, transport or selling costs, you can dispose of the goods in any way.

If the value is above the costs, you must store them for 35 days, so the tenant can claim them, if reasonable storage costs are paid.

If unclaimed, you can store or sell the goods for a reasonable market price.

Personal documents must not be sold. Hand them into the local police station.

My tenants let their dogs live inside, which I would not have allowed if I had known about them. Can I make them keep them outside?

Federated Farmers' standard agreement provides for disallowing animals inside houses. If you used this agreement, enforce its terms by giving tenants written notice of the breach of the tenancy agreement. They must rectify this within 14 days.

You can state they will be liable for damage occurring as a result of that breach and, if they fail to comply, you may apply to terminate the tenancy.

If you have not used the Federated Farmers' agreement or similar, there is little you can do. You could try to renegotiate the tenancy agreement's terms but there is nothing you can do if the tenant refuses to play ball. You are entitled to recover damages if the animal caused excessive damage inside.

If you have any questions about service tenancies, call 0800 FARMING for access to free, independent legal advice.

- Hamilton News

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