Throughout the years, tenancy laws in NZ have changed to accommodate both the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. However, these developments have made it challenging to keep up with expectations on a landlord’s maintenance responsibilities. Today, we’re going to answer the hanging question between landlords and tenants – who is responsible for the maintenance of a rental property? We’ll draw the line on the responsibility of each during a tenancy. What are the landlord’s maintenance responsibilities? In case of damages or repairs, what’s expected of you, the landlord? What happens if you fail to comply with these standards?
What are the landlord’s maintenance responsibilities?
1. Security and Safety
Let’s go over the top property maintenance responsibilities of a landlord to their tenants – security and safety. Generally, when evaluating the safety of your property, ask yourself: do I see myself living here? If you’re having doubts, then you’ll need to work on strengthening your security measures.
For starters, landlords are responsible for providing and maintaining locks to their property. They should do the job of preventing suspicious individuals from entering the property and alerting everyone in case the situation arises. You can also choose to install a security alarm system for extra protection or leave it to your tenant. It is also one of the landlord’s responsibilities in NZ to install a smoke alarm on their rental property. Ensure that there are smoke alarms on areas of the property most prone to fire hazards, like the kitchen, hallway, and bedroom. Lastly, if you’re planning to do repairs or remodel your property, you must manage any asbestos-related risks by creating an asbestos management plan. This is to assure the safety of your tenants, the neighbours, and other people who might be affected.
2. Maintenance & Repairs
Another major obligation that falls under the responsibility of landlords is the maintenance and repair of their property. You must keep your property under habitable conditions for your tenants; that is, the property has no damages and is kept clean and tidy. You’ll need to do regular maintenance inspections and carry out necessary repairs to comply with relevant building, health, and safety standards.
If your property has a chimney, you’ll have to keep that in check from time to time. You can work on an agreement with your tenants to keep it clean and have it inspected at least annually to keep it safe from creating any hazards. You’ll also have to check if tenants are letting proper ventilation (such as opening doors and windows) flow into the house to prevent moisture buildup that could lead to mold.
Cleaning and repairing the gutters, washing the house, and any other outdoor maintenance duties also fall under your hands as the landlord. However, that doesn’t mean your tenants get a free pass on outdoor maintenance duties. It’s a good idea to discuss your share of maintenance work with your tenants at the beginning of their tenancy so you can keep the property in a pleasant, liveable condition.
How about repairs?
Since landlords are responsible for the general upkeep of their property, this means you’re also in charge of repairing any damages, such as roof leaks, broken floorboards, broken hot water cylinders, or gutter leaks. The sooner you fix them, the better, especially if the damage puts the tenants at risk. Not all repairs can be done in a flash, though. Therefore, it’s best practice to outline the usual duration of repairs in your contract to manage expectations.
As the landlord, it’s both your duty and right to do inspections of your property. Doing so helps you detect damages as early as possible and assures you brings you peace of mind that your tenants are doing their job of keeping the place neat and safe. You can discuss the best possible times for inspections and how frequently you’ll be doing them with your tenants.
3. The tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment
According to the Residential Tenancies Act (1986), tenants have the right to enjoy their peace, comfort, and privacy on the property they rented. For instance, if you’re going to do repairs or cleaning, you should do so at a time that works best for the tenants. You also cannot turn up unannounced anytime at your tenant’s doorstep to complain or do an impromptu inspection. You’ll need to ask for permission or notify them before doing so.
4. Giving notice if you plan to sell the property
When you decide to sell your property in the future, you must notify your current tenant of your intent by writing them a letter. This way, you’ll have a smoother and faster process putting your property on the market.
It’s also best to inform your tenant before actually listing the place in the market. They cannot refuse your request, but they can limit what you can access when an agent or buyer visits the property. For example, the tenant may agree for you to bring a real estate agent over, but they may not allow you to take photos with their belongings. They may not also agree to put the place up for auction or set an open home while their tenancy is ongoing.
5. Providing an agent in case of absence for over 21 consecutive days
If you’re planning to leave NZ for more than 21 consecutive days, you’ll need to appoint an agent to take over your property maintenance responsibilities. It could be someone from a property management company or any eligible individual residing in NZ. Once you’ve appointed an agent, give your tenants the agent’s contact details before you leave the country. If they have any emergencies or questions, they can call your agent for help anytime.
Your limitations as a landlord
There are also limitations to what you as a landlord can do as long as your tenants are concerned, such as:
- Taking the tenant’s goods for any reason
- Interfering with their supply of services (water, electricity etc.) – you’re only allowed to do so if it puts people in danger or if there’ll be any repairs on the premises.
- Changing the locks without informing the tenants
Maintenance responsibilities of a tenant
A tenancy is a two-way agreement, and The Residential Tenants Act is great proof of this. While renting on your property, your tenants have to fulfil these obligations:
a. Paying rent and bills on time
If a tenant fails to pay the rent and other bills on time, you’re entitled to issue penalties stated in your agreement.
b. Keeping the place clean and tidy and informing you about any issues
Regular cleaning of the place, as well as the property’s exterior, is a must. You can check if your tenants are doing their end of the bargain by doing regular inspections of the premises. It’s also the tenant’s responsibility to report any damages or maintenance issues on the property.
c. Using the property as agreed
If the place is declared as residential, then the tenant must only use the place as a residential property, not for business activities or any unlawful purposes. They also cannot bring more people to live in the property that exceeds the agreed number of tenants without your permission.
d. Make changes to the place that you’ve agreed on
Before making alterations or adding or removing fixtures to the place, they must have your written consent first. Once the damage is done, though, it’s best to talk to your tenant if they’re going to fix it or compensate you for the damages instead.
e. Do not disturb others
Your tenants are also accountable for how their neighbours and fellow tenants also enjoy their “quiet enjoyment” privilege. You’re allowed to step in when you see your tenant affecting other people’s right to their quiet enjoyment. For example, if the neighbours are complaining of loud noises from your tenants, you can intervene and talk to them about the situation.
What we covered here are just the essential landlord responsibilities in NZ. For more information, you can check out these comprehensive guides:
- Laws and bylaws on real estate
- NZ government’s renting guide
- Rights and responsibilities of a landlord and a tenant
What if I fail to comply to fulfill these landlord maintenance responsibilities?
Landlords who fail to comply with the Residential Tenancies Act (1986) are subjected to penalties that can amount to up to $2000. There are two ways you can prevent this. One, develop an organization system to track repairs, inspections, and other pertinent details of your property and tenancy. Or two, leave the job to a property management company. Property management companies like The Letting Company handle all the responsibility of landlords, ensuring your property complies with every standard and law in the country. We’ll also handle inspections and regular checking on your tenants to assure you that your property is being taken care of. Pretty convenient, isn’t it? If you prefer to skip the unnecessary hassles of maintaining your property, all you need is to get in touch with us. Contact us now and we’ll be happy to discuss managing your property for you!