Service on Tenants

Posted on Sunday, February 9 2014

For many of us, life is not just about being a landlord. Having to juggle a multitude of commitments means that we may not always be able to devote as much time and energy to our rentals as we would have liked. In dealing with defaulting tenants who must make a claim against at the Tenancy Tribunal (“the Tribunal”), acting swiftly will save you a whole lot of hassle in the future.

So, how long do you have to bring a claim to the Tribunal? Though the Limitation Act gives landlords six years to make a Tribunal claim, realistically it would be foolish not to do so as soon as possible. Any delay in bringing a claim makes life difficult for you, evidence is harder to find, people’s memories fade and you are not going to get your hands on documents as easily.

So what does as soon as possible entail? Well, cases differ, ideally:
• For rent arrears (s55 of the Residential Tenancies Act) – right after the 21 days threshold (i.e. on the 22nd day);
• For failure to comply with 14-days-notice (s56) – when the notice period expires;
• For abandonment – once the s61 two-step test (one day rent arrear and physical abandonment of property) has been satisfied; and
• For an application concerning damage to the vacated property – as soon as you discovered the damage(s) and received a repair quote for the damage(s).

The Department of Building and Housing recommendation is for landlords to bring a claim within two months from the end of a tenancy. This is to do with the tenant’s address for service. The Residential Tenancies Act (“the Act”) requires both parties to advise each other of their contact addresses at the start of the tenancy. These addresses are deemed valid for two months after the end of the tenancy. If a claim is brought to the Tribunal within that period, the landlord will be able to use the address on the agreement as the tenant’s address for service. Otherwise, the Tribunal requires the landlord to provide
• a new address given in writing within two months before the application; or
• a physical address where the tenant lives or somewhere notice can be served personally; or
• name and address of a solicitor/agent authorised to receive service on behalf of the tenant.
This can be problematic. Defaulting tenants tend to prefer doing a Houdini than leaving calling cards. A prudent landlord really ought to stay within that two months period.

The Tribunal does recognise that sometimes bringing an immediate claim may not be practicable as landlords may be awaiting quotes for repairs. This is when having a good working relationship with your contractors come into play. Explain to them that you are pursuing a claim through the Tribunal and politely request that your quote be priortised over other jobs.

Of course, Houdini never really disappeared into thin air. There are always ways to track down a defaulting tenant should you ever exceed that two months period. The simple answer is to obtain adequate information when you deal with the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy that will help you in the end. You are not going to get the information out of them after the end of the tenancy. If you ask them, they will not tell you. Why would they? Of course, if you are still at a loss, my suggestion would be for you visit www.tpscreditcontrol.co.nz for a tailored free tenancy agreement and other professional tools that are designed to protect landlords from delinquent tenants.

Sarina Yang, Tenancy Practice Service


 

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Expert's Bio

Craeg Williams

The Tenancy Practice Service specialise in advice, legal documentation, training and debt collection relating to residential tenancies. 093040853 craeg@tenancypractice.co.nz

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