First landlord conviction under new tenancy law

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March 2017

Renting out an unlawfully converted garage as a residence has earned a South Auckland landlord a $16,000 penalty from the Tenancy Tribunal.

By Miriam Bell

Satya Silan has been ordered to refund $15,840 in rent to the family who rented the garage and to pay $750 in exemplary damages by the Tenancy Tribunal.

The Tribunal’s ruling followed an investigation by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s new Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team.

Silan, who is now the first landlord to be successfully prosecuted under the revamped Residential Tenancies Act, had been renting out an unconsented garage to a family with a young child.

After Auckland Council issued Silan with notices to cease doing so, the MBIE’s tenancy team got involved – and they found it that Silan was not a first time offender in this area.

The team’s manager, Steve Watson said that allowing a family to live in an unlawfully converted garage is unacceptable as it poses a serious health and safety risk.

“The Tribunal decision should serve as a serious warning to landlords that they are running a business, and it is their obligation to get it right, providing a warm, dry and safe home for their tenants.

“There are significant consequences for landlords who fail to meet their obligations, and we will not hesitate to crack down on poor landlord behaviour.”

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said the prosecution is significant in that it is the first time the Government has pursued a landlord for failing to provide a warm, dry, safe home.

“The strong message to landlords from this prosecution is that properties should not be tenanted unless they are warm, dry and safe.”

Smith encouraged councils, welfare groups, student associations and others to get in touch with the Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team over similar cases.

But he said it is not the intention of MBIE to prosecute in every such case, but to improve compliance.

“Prosecutions are focused on the worst cases, where landlords have not acted in good faith or where landlords have a track record of poor compliance. “

Since it was established late last year, the Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team has received 242 complaints and found that more than 200 of those involved a breach of tenancy law.

Of these, to date it has lodged three cases involving 199 properties with the Tribunal.


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