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Rent reductions; A snapshot of median rents in five districts; renter's right; Tenancy Tribunals; Advocacy

Posted in Personal Finance

By Amanda Morrall

Apparently, you readers just can't get enough of property stories judging by page impressions. So today's Take Five is dedicated to all you renters out there. 

1) Rent reductions

Yesterday I heard from an acquintance that she'd successfully negotiated a rent reduction with her landlord. It wasn't a huge discount but better than the proposed rent increase. When you enter into these discussions make sure you go armed. If you're a good tenant, who pays on time, looks after the joint, doesn't cause any disturbances, and you're prepared to sign up for a fixed term, leverage all that into a better deal for yourself. (See also 10 tips for negotiating lower rentfrom One Cent at a Time.)

2) Median rents

As we move toward a distributive workforce, and begin to embrace alternative workplace arrangements including things like telecommuting, more of us will have the luxury of choosing where to live instead of being at the mercy of high prices in overly populated cities with too much traffic.

Here's a snapshot of median rents in five districts around the country compiled by my esteemed colleague Suhaimi Mohamad. And the case for Gisborne grows.

 
Average weekly median rent of 3BR house
 
Auckland City
Hamilton
Gisborne
Wellington City
Invercargill
2006
398
280
217
369
182
2007
419
296
240
399
196
2008
440
303
256
435
213
2009
444
303
257
441
220
2010
462
313
261
448
225
2011
486
319
269
456
229
2012
513
324
274
463
231
Source: DBH

3) Tenancy Tribunal

A few years back I had the misfortune of having to take on a dodgy landlord from Christchurch. The long list of grievances included him not attending to grey water pooling directly under the house (for months), entering the house on several occasions without consent, ripping out an expensive veggie garden I'd planted without asking, and breaking a verbal agreement about when the tenancy would end because of a house sale. The tribunal, in my opinion, was a waste of time, because the judge presiding over the case said there was insufficent evidence to prove my complaints. He also questioned my credibility given that I put up with so much without taking action against him earlier. Being a nice and tolerant person didn't wash with him. Although a penalty was ordered against the landlord, he never paid it, as I expected. I could have gone after it through a collection agency if I was willing to put up the money for their efforts up front.

Okay, so I had a bad experience. On the bright side, I've had plenty of positive renter experiences too but I certainly wouldn't deter other tenants stuck with loser landlords from taking them on if there are grounds to do so. My only piece of advice would be not to wait too long to do it, to keep detailed notes (dates and times) for whatever alleged infractions, where possible have a witness and don't be a sucker.

Here's a link to the Tenancy Tribunal.

4) Just what are your rights?

Head off bigger problems down the road by knowing your rights up front. They are spelled out under the Residential Tenancy Act here.

Why not take a quiz to see how up to speed you are with changes to the Act introduced in 2010. Go on, I dare ya. There's actually 13 of them if you're super keen.

5) Scaredy cats

If you're too timid to take on your landlord, why not recruit someone with some experience in these matters. The Tenancy Protection Assocation in Christchurch is a good place to start and if you're not from Christchurch they can put you in touch with similar outfits nationwide.

Because you "Just can't get enough" of the '80s either.

 

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To read other Take Fives by Amanda Morrall click here. You can also follow Amanda on Twitter @amandamorrall

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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8 Comments

Amanda, the tenancy tribunal

Amanda, the tenancy tribunal is always very fair.  They require a high standard of evidence from either party, simply because it is very easy for tenants to make exaggerated claims against landlords and sometimes for landlords to exaggerate things such as the amount of damage done by a tenant.
 
If you have a judgement against the landlord, and the amount is not inconsequential, then you can apply to the District Court for a Distress Warrant if you know his physical address (very easy if he lives in NZ).  The Bailiffs are generally very helpful and if the chap has money on him will likely extract it from him.  If not they will simply take his car or cars and sell them (They'll block the drive etc until a tow truck comes).  All expenses are recoverable and the cost is only something like $65 (which is recoverable).
 
If he owns a house (which we assume he does given he's a landlord.  Slap Charging Orders on any of his properties and he will never be able to sell or refinance until the order is discharged.  It would also kill his creditworthiness which would stifle his landlording abilities!
 
Try and get his cars repoed first (as long as they are not $500 clangers), if that's still not enough to cover debt then the charging order may be worth considering.

If this guy wasn't such a

If this guy wasn't such a shady character and didn't know my new address, believe you me I'd have pursued it. The fact that my chief witness didn't speak English and would had to have flown from Auckland to Christchurch to testify on my behalf didn't help. C'est la vie. Lessons learned the hard way, as most of 'em are.
 

Hi Amanda, not wanting to

Hi Amanda, not wanting to snoop... but since pretty much everything is publicly available online if you know where to look...including all Court Documents, I thought I better check to see who this egregious landlord is (in case it's someone I know!)
 
Your ex landlord (you will be relieved to hear) no longer seems to own any properties except what I assume is his own home in xxxxxxxxxxx* Ave (with a $500,000 RV...how about a Charging Order!!), and clearly he was just a typical one or two property owning novice landlord (it was his only outing at the Tribunal on record).
 
All you need to do is get someone to check what kind of vehicle he owns.  Then if the car's got some value send round the bailiffs for $65 (which is added to the bill) and job done.  He's not going to risk all the costs incurred of having his car repossessed for that amount of debt.
 
You are never going to win more than a small award for compensation for breaches of the landlords responsibilities unless these are blatant, flagrant and repeated breaches and made subsequent to 14 day notices being given by the tenant, or complaints recorded with police or lodged as Tribunal applications.
 
For any breach to be considered seriously action must be taken immediately on becoming aware of it.  A collection of small complaints over a long time frame makes a claimant appear like they are just looking for excuses not to pay rent.
 
In regards landlord claims for repairs.  Landlords should be aware that any expenses to be claimed must actually have been spent, and that receipts must be shown to the tribunal.  If the expenses of your landlord had been genuine, he would have been able to lodge a further claim for those expenses at a time he was able to produce receipts.  Landlords also need to be aware that they can only charge minimum amounts for their own time (if they do cleaning or gardening themselves).  If the tenant has a bond that is not used up and there is work to do and the tenant refuses to do that work, then it is actually better to pay someone to undertake the work at whatever the going rate is ($30ph etc), than do the work yourself and receive $12.50ph or whatever the tribunal may award you.
 
I believe that the time in which your landlord could make a further claim of costs from that tenancy is now expired.  So all that's left to do is extract the money from him, which you only have 3 years left to do before the statute of limitations takesover!
-----------------------------
* Sorry Chris, but that is very close to identifying someone without their ok, and you can't do that. Ed

Goodness.   Reading that lot

Goodness.
 
Reading that lot made me glad I bought a house ;-)

Hi Bernard/Amanda, I guess

Hi Bernard/Amanda, I guess you know I don't like people people being defamed (Bernard will remember my response to him digging into poor old Allan Crafar!).  So, because of the way Court Orders are accessible, the article above pretty much identifies the Christchurch landlord involved (especially with the direct link to the orders), I hope therefore any comments in the article are ticketyboo and defensible (don't worry I don't know the guy and don't care, but someone else might).

Wednesday already?? Weeks

Wednesday already?? Weeks going fast :)

re: #2 Hamilton seems quite

re: #2
Hamilton seems quite good value. Easy drive to Auckland for day trips, quite good education. I think Hamilton has quite a good future, its going to drain business from Auckland.
Also, quite right about the growing influence of telecommuting. Its one of sevral reasons why "smart growth" urban planning is a bit of a nonsense.