A Rotorua real estate agency has been ordered to pay $3000 for failing to fix damage in a rental property for more than a year after the issues were first noted.
The Tenancy Tribunal ordered McDowell Real Estate to pay the sum after an application was brought by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment's Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team.
The matter relates to a property in Murupara, tenanted by Kenneth Takao from March 2016.
According to the decision, shortly after Takao moved in and prior to McDowell Real Estate taking over management of the property, a water pipe burst, causing a leak in the ceiling.
The leak and pipe was repaired but a portion of the ceiling and some gib-board, which had to be removed due to water damage, was not replaced.
Takao taped some cardboard over the hole to try to prevent draughts. A section of carpet that got wet from the leak became mouldy.
In April 2016, the agency took over management of the property and on June 28, 2016, an inspection was carried out, noting the need for urgent repairs to the ceiling and wall areas. Two further inspections were carried out in November, 2016, and May, 2017, also noting the need for urgent repairs to the same areas.
The damage caused the house to be cold, damp and draughty and Takao's partner and child said they moved out as a result.
While the specific date is unknown, the decision notes the damaged ceiling and wall areas were repaired in August/September 2017, some 15 or 16 months since the agency became aware of the damage.
A representative for McDowell Real Estate said some of the delay could be explained by difficulties in getting a contractor to go to Murupara and getting access inside the house.
McDowell Real Estate accepted the failure to have the ceiling and walls repaired in a timely manner did breach the landlord's obligations under section 45(1)(b) of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) 1986. The agency's representative "quite appropriately" apologised during the hearing to Takao and was "refreshingly candid" in his evidence, admitting that "the ball has been dropped by our company".
"There is considerable public interest in ensuring that professional property management companies, who will often manage a large number of rental properties at any one time, do not breach their obligations under the RTA in the way that has occurred in this case," the decision read.
The agency's principal Steve Lovegrove said in a written statement: "The event in this case began prior to our purchase of the business two years ago and since then we have significantly changed and improved our systems to better serve the tenants in the properties that we manage.
"At McDowell's we are passionate about tenants having good and fair living conditions and while regrettably there are some situations that are sometimes beyond our control we continue to work with our landlords to meet the highest of standards required by the RTA."