House hoppers rack up huge arrears

By Imran Ali

17 comments
Sandra Robinson
Sandra Robinson

Fly-by-night tenants moving from house to house to avoid paying rent has topped the list of complaints to the Tenancy Tribunal in Northland.

Figures released to the Northern Advocate by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment under the Official Information Act show rent arrears while tenants are still occupying properties or after they have moved out comprised more than two thirds of complaints to the Tenancy Tribunal in Northland in the past three years.

The statistics have prompted a rental property manager to call on the Government to redirect rental subsidy from tenants to either landlords or their agents in order to avoid arrears.

The Tenancy Tribunal last year received 1511 complaints for adjudication in Northland, with landlords lodging 1425 cases and tenants 86.

The number is an increase from 2011 and 2012 when 1384 and 1397 complaints were received respectively.

Most complaints since 2011 were over failed rent payments, followed by property damage and breaching tenancy agreements.

From the 1511 complaints received throughout Northland last year, 480 went to mediation, 686 ended up with the tribunal, 168 were withdrawn and 177 were unresolved.

Rental property manager Sandra Robinson of Mid North Real Estate said a high number of beneficiaries with wrong priorities have exacerbated the problem with rent arrears.

"If the Government can redirect rent to the agents, half the problem could be eliminated because if people are not paying their rents, they're also struggling with their power and water bills," she said.

Last year, 661 complaints to the tribunal related to termination of rental agreement because of unpaid rent.

This was followed by rental areas after tenants have moved out and 116 for termination breaches where tenants have been asked to leave for unpaid rent.

LJ Hooker Whangarei chief executive Paul Beazley said in most disputes between landlords and tenants, efforts were made for an agreement to be reached that both parties could live with. He said an economic downturn, extra rental properties and the fact that landlords and tenants were more aware of their rights could contribute to unpaid rents and a high number of complaints to the tribunal.

Latest census figures show the number of occupied or rented homes and units in Northland increased from 55,932 in 2006 to 60,192 last year.

Several readers took to the Advocate Facebook page to highlight problems they've had with their tenants.

Kaikohe school teacher Brent Samuel Strathdee said his mother had a string of bad tenants, most of who simply wouldn't pay rent. "And one even decided they'd take some of the chattels like curtains and even a fixed bathroom cabinet when they left."

Meanwhile, Jarna Cherry pointed out that renters also struggled with bad landlords, saying she had been ripped off by landlords and property managers and has taken a landlord to the Tribunal.

The tribunal is a specialist court that can award compensation or order repairs up to a value of $50,000. Serious cases of substantial damage, threats and assault, or failing to pay rent for more than three weeks can see tenants evicted.

Are you a landlord or tenant who has been through the Tenancy Tribunal? We'd like to hear from you at reporters@northernadvo cate.co.nz.

- Northern Advocate

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