Tenants paying $1200/week for an executive property in an affluent Auckland suburb won $4000 and a reprimand for their absentee, offshore landlord about obligations under New Zealand law.
The Tenancy Tribunal awarded St Johns tenant Aaron Ballard $4020.44 for many problems at the home which property records show is owned by Yunzhang Zou and is worth more than $2 million.
The Ballards have lived in the two-level home for four-and-a-half years, the tribunal noted, and the rent was reduced at times to compensate them for the inconvenience caused by numerous problems.
Ballard sought $10,000 and won just under half that but the landlord must now take action, the tribunal said, making a number of orders due to be carried out by next week.
But the tribunal went further, noting how the owner lived overseas yet must still comply with laws in this country.
"It is important that absentee landlords understand that New Zealand law prevails. It appeared, from the landlord's submissions, that there was a feeling that the owner has spent a lot of money on the property and that it was unfair to the owner that the tenant continued to press for repairs to be addressed," the ruling said.
"Being the owner of residential tenancy properties is a business. It is the responsibility of the property manager, as the landlord, to ensure the requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 are satisfied. It is the landlord/owners' legal obligation to maintain the property in a reasonable state of repair."
Evidence was given at the hearing that the property owner is not resident in New Zealand but was represented by Barfoot staff.
The tribunal said the tenants had for some years complained of issues which include:
• Problems with kitchen rangehood which the Ballards says is so inefficient that they have to open doors and windows to vent food smells, unreasonable "for their children, one of whom is asthmatic";
• Gas stove hob not functioning properly for what the tribunal said was an unacceptable period of time;
• Malfunctioning heat pump air conditioners;
• Malfunctioning outdoor lights that posed a risk to the Ballards;
• A leak in the downstairs bathroom that caused ongoing dampness and mould;
• Issues with the whiteware provided with the property.
Orders made are:
• "Barfoot & Thompson as manager must pay Ballard $4020.44 immediately;
• "The gas hob is to be properly repaired or replaced;
• "A kitchen designer with knowledge of the efficiency of range hood fans is to
be engaged to provide a report and quote for the work that would be required to upgrade the kitchen extraction fan, including, if necessary, replacing the ducting and cupboard alterations;
• "A builder or other person with appropriate qualifications to examine watertightness issues is to be engaged to provide a full report on the state of the
downstairs bathroom, the nature of the leak that has yet to be fixed, and a
quote for the repairs;
• If the landlord fails to comply with any of the orders, they must pay the Ballards $5000.
Mrs Ballard wanted the landlord to provide information about the time of day tradespeople would arrive, the tribunal said.
But due to high demand of people in this field, the landlord might not know the precise time so both parties should work together to achieve the best possible arrangements, the tribunal said.
Ballard said today he did not want to comment on the decision.
Samantha Arnold, Barfoot property management general manager, said she was not surprised by the decision "because historically the tribunal has worked in favour of the tenant."
Contractors had already visited the house and would submit reports on work soon, she said.
"There have been complications along the way, for example with the range hood which does work but not to the tenants' satisfaction. So we feel it's not justified," she said on the tribunal's decision on that.
"But the tribunal doesn't go to the properties and doesn't understand the background."