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The Landlord Strikes Back

Saying 'it was an accident' may no longer save tenants after a groundbreaking appeal decision went in the favour of a landlord. The Osaki case has caused many a headache for Property Managers and Landlords, but after this decision, there is a sense of optimism and that common sense will prevail.

The long-awaited verdict from the 'Damage caused by dog urinating' appeal case has been announced and it is a victory for Property Managers and landlords. It could be a precedent-setting decision that sees the pendulum swing back towards the landlord after a District Court overturned Tenancy Tribunals ruling. As the decision is from the Manawatu District Court, the ruling creates a binding precedent that adjudicators will have to follow.

The case sprung to nationwide attention last year when a tenant of a Foxton property was ruled not to be liable for damages to the carpet caused by her pet dog which ruined the carpets by urinating all over them. What made the decision even worse was that the dog wasn't even supposed to be on the property as the Tenancy Agreement stated no pets. Adjudicator Clancy Lyon ruled that the damage was not intentional and therefore under rulings from the Osaki case meant that the tenant couldn't be liable for the damage.

This caused uproar within the industry, especially after a similar ruling in Wellington went in the landlord's favour when cats had caused similar damage to a property. Landlord David Russ of Tekoa Trust appealed the decision against the tenant, Amanda Stewart who had rented the Foxton property. Russ won and had the original decision overturned. 

Judge David Smith made the ruling based on the way the tenants lived at the property. The tenant would have known that the damage would have been caused and this was deemed to be intentional. Due to the fact that the decision has come from the District court, the ruling is now binding and could see a major turnaround in future decisions.

Tenants who live in a manner that will create inevitable damage can no longer simply say that it was an accident and hope to get away with it. This is welcome news to Property Managers and landlords who had to deal with so much in 2016. Many private landlords came to the conclusion that it simply wasn't worth the hassle and sold up. This has certainly contributed to a lack of rental accommodation in many parts of the country.

It will be very interesting to see how adjudicators react to this verdict and it will probably mean that a number of tenants who would have gotten away with damages that they had caused to properties will now likely be held liable if how they lived contributed to the damages. We will be keeping a close eye on the decision that comes out of Tenancy Tribunal to see if the verdict impacts the stance that adjudicators have taken.

Meth Submissions Close

Meanwhile, in other renting news, the draft standards around Methamphetamine contamination went out to public consultation just prior to Christmas and closed on the 10th February. The standards will probably set around May 2017 and will likely see the safe level reading increase from 0.5 micrograms per 100 cm2 increase to 1.5 micrograms for carpeted properties and 2.0 micrograms from uncarpeted properties. 

The draft standards also recommend an introduction of qualifications around 'Meth Testing' in an attempt to remove the cowboys from the industry. 

Real iQ have written to REINZ legal advisor Lisa Gerrard asking that they write to head adjudicator Melissa Poole to establish what stance Tenancy Tribunal will be taking once the standards come into effect. Ms Gerrard has informed us that she has written to Ms Poole on a number of occasions and is still awaiting a response.

REINZ will be holding a webinar in the Autumn around the new standards and we recommend that all Property Managers make time to watch this.