It’s time to talk about the Tenancy Tribunal for Kiwi tenants who are wondering where to go when their landlord isn’t meeting their obligations.
The Tenancy Tribunal is essentially where landlords and tenants go for help on issues they can’t resolve between themselves.
When you or your landlord have an issue, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal. They will then follow-up with the next-best steps so you can reach a resolution. Usually this will be a mediation session or a court hearing, but it completely depends upon what it is and how bad it is. Except, how do you know when something is bad enough to take to the Tribunal? This is the part that many tenants get stuck on, so we’re here to help.
Taking your landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal is a hard call to make. It isn’t always apparent at what point the dispute becomes serious enough to warrant needing someone else to settle it. But, if your landlord is in breach of your tenancy agreement, you are justified in taking action.
What to remember when you’re worried about taking a case to the Tenancy Tribunal
Many tenants in sticky situations are unaware of their rights. Others may be weary about the cost of going to the Tribunal, and whether this will impact their potential to get new tenancies in the future. But, you need to remember that you do have rights and going to the Tenancy Tribunal for help is one of them.
Remember, your landlord has obligations just like you do as a tenant. If they aren’t meeting them you can take action; just like they can if you aren’t meeting yours. Some top tips for learning these obligations:
- Read, read, and re-read your tenancy agreement (before you sign)
- Follow us on Facebook for helpful articles on renting law (we promise to use words you’ll know)
- Check out these checklists on tenant and landlord responsibilities from Tenancy Services
Educating yourself on these obligations and tenancy law will make it easy to know when to go to the Tribunal. But for now, here are some situations where you should definitely consider getting the Tribunal involved.
Are unsafe living conditions a reason to go to the Tenancy Tribunal?
Are you living in a property that doesn’t have working smoke alarms? Does it lack insulation? Heating? Or anything else that poses a risk to your health and safety? If so, your landlord isn’t fulfilling their obligations.
Your first step in dealing with this situation is to serve them a 14 day notice to remedy. This important piece of paper lets your landlord know they have 14 days to fix the issue. It outlines the problem and also gives them a heads-up that the next action will be to take it to the Tribunal.
If a 14-day notice still changes nothing, your next best-step is to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal. Your landlord has the obligation to provide a property that is fit for people to live in, and you have the right to live in a safe house.
Delays in important repairs
If your heating system broke months ago, you informed your landlord when it happened, yet you’re still waiting for it to be fixed – then it might be time to do something about it.
Your landlord has an obligation to provide a safe, warm property. If they’re not doing that, and they didn’t listen when you brought it to their attention, then it’s probably time to consider the Tenancy Tribunal.
Entering the property without giving notice
Your landlord can’t come over for a cuppa whenever they like. They do need to give you notice, unless it’s an emergency.
Your landlord is obligated to give you quiet enjoyment of the property unless they absolutely need to. Even then, your landlord is still required to give a minimum notice period. If they’re repeatedly entering the property without proper warning, and are regularly disrupting you, then it could be time to consider the Tenancy Tribunal.
Increasing rent without notice
Your landlord is perfectly within their right to increase rent if this is done according to the law. If your landlord increases rent they need to follow a certain process;
- Rent must be at market rate, if you think the increase is unfair you can dispute it.
- They need to give tenants 60 days written notice of a rent increase.
- Rent cannot increase more than once every 180 days, and not within 180 days after signing a new tenancy.
During the COVID-19 Lockdown, there was a freeze on rent increases put in place. The rent increase freeze runs from 23 March until 25 September 2020.
If your landlord attempts to increase rent without following the above rules, your first action is to formally speak with them about the issue. If they still don’t listen when you voice your concerns, then you should consider taking them to the Tribunal.
What will it cost me to go to the Tenancy Tribunal?
To make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal it costs $20.44. You pay this when you lodge the application and if you win the case against your landlord, they can be ordered to pay this fee back to you.
If your landlord is claiming against you and they win, you can be ordered to pay costs. These can be taken from your rental bond, and can be over and above your bond amount.
Will going to the Tenancy Tribunal stop me from getting another rental?
When you have a case with the Tenancy Tribunal, your name and the landlord’s name are recorded in the Tenancy Tribunal Orders database. This database is often searched when a landlord is completing pre-tenancy checks on prospective tenants. Responsible landlords will take the time to read the case if a result is returned with your name on it. After reading, they will quickly be able to see why the case happened, and which party was found liable.
One of the proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act is to anonymise the names of winning parties from Tenancy Tribunal orders. So, if you take your landlord to the Tribunal and win, your name will not be recorded on the case.
Making the decision to take your landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal is a tough one. It certainly isn’t going to make your landlord want to be your best friend any time soon. But, if your landlord isn’t performing as they should be, then you’re perfectly within your rights to do something about it.
Keep in mind that this is a very short list, and there are plenty of other factors in your situation that will influence whether this is the right choice to make.
If this is a decision you’re thinking about, make sure that you read up on the law around your situation, and you do a good job of recording any evidence to support your case. Being informed and well-prepared is going to go a long way to ensuring that you’ve actually got a good case to bring to the Tenancy Tribunal.