Landlord e-newsletter

No.13: June 2010

In this issue we cover:

Winter maintenance check up

The Department of Building and Housing gets an increase in the number of calls during winter from tenants seeking advice about:
  • mildew and condensation
  • heating and chimney maintenance
  • flooding
  • rodent infestations
  • weathertightness

Now is a great time for landlords to cast an eye over their property and deal with general maintenance issues.
The following is a helpful list you can use to carry out a check of your property. In between tenancies is also a good chance to go through your property and inspect it. If in doubt, ask yourself how you would feel living there with your friends or family!
There are also insulation and heating subsidies available for owners of homes built before 2000. See the energywise website for more information.
Take a good look over your property and consider:
Condensation

  • Is the ducting for dryers in laundry areas adequate to avoid condensation problems from the hot air?
  • Is there a covered outdoor area that enables a tenant to dry clothes rather than drying them inside?

Damp

  • If dampness is a problem, does the house need under floor sealing with building paper or polythene?
  • Are any of your tenants sleeping on a mattress on the floor? These make damp areas on the floor.

Bathroom and kitchen ventilation

  • Would extractor fans or safety catches on windows help reduce moisture or mould issues in these high use areas?

Insulation

  • When was the last time you inspected under the roof and assessed the top of the ceiling and the state of any insulation?

Heating

  • What type of heating is used? Have you considered installing a flued gas heater which will produce less condensation and damp than an unflued gas heater

Water Use

  • Do your gutters, down pipes and drains need repairs or cleaning?
  • Do any outside taps drip?
  • Does your shower curtain sit inside the bath unit to avoid flooding?
  • If you have aluminium joinery, have you checked the drip holes are clear?

General

  • Are the inside linings of your cupboards, wardrobes and closets dry?
  • Are the air vents in the foundation areas of your house clear?
  • Are the under-house pipes in good condition?
  • Do the curtains have adequate thermal backings?
  • Do trees or shrubs need pruning to reduce dampness or enable greater light and sun?

Letting a Unit Title property

The rules of a body corporate in a unit title development place duties on owners and occupiers of units.
Landlords who own a unit title property should include a copy of the development’s current body corporate rules with the tenancy agreement. There may be some obligations that the tenant must observe as an occupier of the property that are not expressly covered in the tenancy agreement. Landlords should point out any specific rules that the tenant will need to follow while they live in the property.
Landlords should also notify the tenant of any new or changed body corporate rules that might affect the tenant’s use of the property and common areas around it during their tenancy.
These tips are likely to become formal requirements for landlords under proposed amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act.
Increasing the rent

For periodic tenancies, 60 days’ written notice must be given for rent increases. Many experienced landlords prefer to increase their rent to fair market rental in small and regular increments. This helps the tenant to adjust their budget rather than leaving the rent the same for a year or more and then getting a single large rent increase which might be too much for the tenant to deal with.
Rent must not be increased within 180 days of the start of the tenancy or the last rent increase.
If the increased rent is much higher than market rent, a tenant can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to reduce it to market levels. Market rent can be based on comparable tenancies in the area or similar areas. You can access up to date information on market rents.
For rent to be increased in a fixed-term tenancy, the tenancy agreement should state that the tenancy is subject to a rent increase, and should specify the day the increase is to occur.
If you have any questions about the procedure for increasing rent call 0800 TENANCY.
Redirecting a benefit to help pay rent

If your tenant receives a benefit from Work and Income your tenant can apply to have their rent paid by Work and Income to you directly. This may help the tenant avoid problems with meeting rent payments and prevent disputes.
Landlords can support their tenants by going with them to see their case manager to make an application at a local Work and Income office.
Work and Income will look at the merits of each tenant’s case to check that redirecting the benefit to your account is justified. A benefit will not be redirected to you simply because you request it. Work and Income will consider a number of factors to see if there is good cause to redirect the benefit. Factors that might be considered include:
  • if refusing the request the tenant may be placed in a worse position, for example their tenancy might be terminated.
  • supporting recommendations your tenant has from other agencies e.g. budget services, or medical evidence that indicates that there may risk to the tenant’s wellbeing if the benefit is not redirected.
  • a history of requiring redirection assistance in other letting situations.

Redirecting the benefit must relate to an essential service to the tenant. Renting a property to live in is an example of an essential service. Paying off a hire purchase arrangement is not an essential service. Any redirection of benefit is entirely voluntary and the recipient of the benefit can request that this cease at any time.
Short term rentals

A short term tenancy is one which is fixed for a period of 120 days or less. This period is anticipated to become 90 days if proposed amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act are passed as law.
The landlord and tenant must agree in writing before commencing the short term tenancy that the term will not be extended or renewed beyond a total of 120 days. Once that agreement is in place the provisions in the Residential Tenancies Act about increasing rent do not apply.
If the landlord and tenant agree to extend or renew the tenancy so that it becomes greater than 120 days, then all those provisions of the Act will apply from day 121 onwards.
The Residential Tenancies Act does not apply where the premises are let for the tenant’s holiday purposes. If you want to let your home to someone wanting to use it for a lengthy sabbatical or holiday purpose, you could elect to ‘contract into’ the Residential Tenancies Act under section 8 to avoid any doubt about the terms of the letting arrangement.
Dispute Resolution Tool Kit

The Department has created a new toolkit providing landlords and tenants with guidance on how to prevent, and how to sort out, tenancy problems. The toolkit includes practical tips, checklists and tools you can use at each stage of the tenancy.
The toolkit also contains a variety of helpful web links and contact details for organisations that can provide further information and advice.
View the Tool Kit »
http://www.dbh.govt.nz/landlord-enewsletter-article-13