Bad tenants are being unfairly let off the hook for property damage after a court decision, landlords say.
The Court of Appeal ruled last week that tenants who caused a fire by leaving oil unattended on a stove in 2009 could not be held financially liable.
The Residential Tenancies Act states tenants can be made to pay for damage caused by neglect or carelessness. The Property Law Act says they are not liable for damage from “perils” beyond their control such as fire, storm, earthquake or volcanic eruption.
Leaving oil unattended on a stove seems pretty careless to me.
Landlords and property managers say that while last week’s appeal court decision may have been fair, the ruling opens the floodgates for tenants being excused for severe negligence and deliberate damage.
One Christchurch property manager, who did not want his business identified for fear of jeopardising live Tenancy Tribunal claims, said they had lost two applications in the last few days seeking orders for tenants to pay landlords’ insurance excesses after damage.
The harm included carpets covered in drink stains and cigarette burns, damaged walls, and ignored plumbing leaks which led to water damage, he said.
“The Tenancy Tribunal said they had made their ruling because of the Appeal Court ruling. They definitely used that as an excuse to exonerate tenants for any damage,” the property manager said.
So what is the possible impact:
The property manager said the rulings would lead to higher insurance premiums pushing up rents, or landlords excluding risky tenants such as families with children. Insurance companies could also insist landlords take only insured tenants, he said.
“The good tenants will have to pay the price for what the bad ones do”.
Requiring tenants to be insured could well be the outcome.