A property manager must repay more than a year's electricity charges after a landlord only provided one power meter at a two-flat property, making it impossible for tenants to work out how much each of them owed.
The Tenancy Tribunal last Monday ordered Twin Rivers Real Estate to repay April Nepia $5022.41 for the power she paid for at her Ngaruawahia flat between August 2017 and November last year.
"There was only one electricity meter for the premises despite there being two flats," the tribunal said.
That single meter was a breach of the Residential Tenancies Act "because any utility that is to be paid for by a tenant must be attributable to use by that tenant".
The landlord required Nepia's daughter - who initially rented the premises - to acknowledge the single meter when signing the tenancy agreement, the tribunal said, trying to contract out of the law.
"The acknowledgment is meaningless in law," the tribunal said because no clause like that overrode the act. Providing the single meter was also illegal.
"One electricity meter for two dwellings does not enable the tenant in each dwelling to identify what power was used by them. Ms Nepia should not have been required for pay for electricity as there was no meter accurately recording her usage," the tribunal decided.
Paula Jelaca, who Companies Office records show owns Twin Rivers Real Estate, said today that company was the property manager, not the owner, who was based in Auckland.
Asked why the properties had a single power meter, Jeleca said today: "It's a whanau house and there was an agreement between the tenants to separate the power bill."
Asked if she knew it was illegal to use such a written agreement, she said: "In this particular case, there was an agreement with the tenants."
Nepia also complained to the tribunal that she spent 38 weeks trying to get keys from the property manager "so that she could secure her house." The property manager assumed because Nepia and her daughter were related, the keys would be simply passed to Nepia but that did not happen.
Nepia won a further $200 for this.