The lawyer for a Chinese property developer who was ordered to pay almost $120,000 repair costs to the house she abandoned says the amount is "excessive".

Yong Xin Chen bought a Maungakiekie Ave house -- at the edge of Auckland's Cornwall Park -- on leasehold land in 2005 for $450,000 but in 2010 her annual rent increased from $8300 to $73,750.

The land is owned by the Cornwall Park Trust Board.

The High Court ruled last year for Chen to pay $119,327 for repair costs but it dismissed the board's lawsuit for Chen to pay $170,000 in back rent.


She was appealing the repair costs ordered to be paid by her and defending the decision to not pay the back rent, at the Court of Appeal in Wellington yesterday before Justice Ellen France, Justice Lynton Stevens and Justice Anthony Randerson.

Chen's counsel Bob Hollyman said the level of repair costs were "disproportionate" and that it was just under 50 per cent of the value of improvements.

However, the board's counsel, Michael Ring, said the property was in an upmarket suburb and repairs needed to be done to "get back into its reasonable state".

"You're taking a residential property and maintaining it.

"You fix things that are worn out as they are reached their use-by date or if it is more economical, replace them," he said.

This included the sunroom that was removed by the board and costs charged to Chen after she vacated the property.

The board also appealed the High Court's decision for Chen to not pay back rent of $170,000.

Mr Hollyman said Ms Chen received a letter from the board in February 2011 which "clearly stated" old rent should continue to be paid until new rent was determined and accepted.

However, in April of the same year, she received another letter stating the property would be placed at auction and if successful, she didn't need to pay the upset rent until she vacated.

Mr Hollyman continued stating the the lease agreement required the lessee to pay the old rent until a new lease contract was agreed.

That failed to happen as the property didn't sell in an auction.

The board was attempting to claim back the new upset rent between the expiry of the lease and when Ms Chen abandoned her property.

Mr Hollyman said Ms Chen "would have moved out if they [the board] were clear".

However, Mr Ring said Ms Chen should have expected to pay the upset rent and should have known the rent was to rise as the lease was up for a regular 21-year renewal in 2009.

Ms Chen bought the property in 2005, and in 2009 the lease came up for a regular 21-year renewal.

She attempted to negotiate to freehold the property and adjust the rent if her lease was renewed but vacated the house in November 2011.

Mr Ring said a negotiation to freehold the property was "never going to happen".

The judges reserved their decision.