Residential Tenancies

January 25, 2018

in Property

You may have seen a recent decision from the Tenancy Tribunal in the news, awarding a former tenant a full refund of her rent because the property she had been living in did not have a Building Consent for some renovation work.  The Tenancy Tribunal made that order even though the renovation work was completed to a very high standard, which was confirmed when the owner (who had not been aware of the lack of consent where the work had been done before the landlord bought the house) obtained a Certificate of Acceptance from the local Council.

Many people were surprised that the tenant was able to recover all of the rent she had paid.  She had not made any complaint during her time in the property, and had benefitted from a high quality home.  The tenant even had a sub-tenant paying rent to live in the unconsented part of the house.

The District Court has recently overturned the decision of the Tenancy Tribunal and ordered that the money that the former tenant was paid under the Tenancy Tribunal decision be repaid to the Landlord.  Whether or not that’s of any use to the Landlord in the particular case or not may just depend on whether the former tenant still has the money.

The District Court decision is good news for Landlords.  The overall point of the decision is that where a breach of the law is technical only, and doesn’t result in any real detriment to the tenant, that is not going to engage the parts of the Residential Tenancies Act that the Tenancy Tribunal had relied on to give the tenant a refund.  The breach of the law will need to be accompanied by real negative impacts on a tenant before the Tenancy Tribunal or the Courts will be prepared to give a tenant a refund of their rent.

These decisions are important because a full refund of rent, when a tenant has been living in a place for a number of years, could amount to several tens of thousands of dollars.  The District Court’s decision means that rather than there being a blanket rule that all that money has to be refunded even when the lack of compliance is technical only, each case is going to have to be taken on a fact specific basis looking at whether there has been real detriment to the tenant.

Wallace Revell
09 379 0055 or 03 477 8870


The information contained in this publication is intended as a guide only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances.  While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, Farry and Co. does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. 

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