NZ Green Party
The Best Place For Rental Shake-Up is Toi- let

I and many other frogs out there am renting so I’m pretty concerned about National’s shake up of rental laws led by Housing Minister Phil Heatley. The reason given for the shake-up seems to be that the scales have swung too far towards the tenants. If so this will be news to a lot of us frogs looking for the right lily-pad.

According to the Standard blog only 8% of us are actually property investors – which means that a small percentage of croakers will be mighty happy right now. As for those frogs paying off student loans, bringing up tadpoles and without a spare couple of hundred thousand to participate in the housing market – well we will end up paying those great letting fees.

I wonder how many Government MPs are renting – besides the swanky Wellington residence close to the Hive? – I’m guessing not too many. Instead this rewrite will be written by those who don’t know what it’s like to get a letter around Xmas telling you the land-person are moving back in and you’ve got six weeks to find somewhere else for the family. And say your rental property has dodgy drains – well you won’t be able to go to a tribunal with a professional support person.

This is a difficult enough task at the best of times. Imagine what this will mean for those people who have just lost their jobs and there struggling with English or people.

As Green MP Sue Bradford points out ‘this issue affects many New Zealanders there were 24,297 tenancy tribunal hearings held in the 2006/2007 years.’ C’mon Phil ‘Let’s keep it fair not return to Dicken’s days of yesteryear.’

59 thoughts on “The Best Place For Rental Shake-Up is Toi- let

  1. Why on earth is it fair that a tenant is limited to four weeks worth of damages?

    If he had to put up with that, we’d simply raise the cost of the rents to include comprehensive insurance, which wouldn’t be cheap, because the tenant has limited responsibility, and pass the cost on.

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  2. isn’t that toad of yours a real class act..eh..?

    ..this is his excuse for debate..directed at me..

    ..at kiwiblog..

    “..# toad (723) Vote: Add rating 0 Subtract rating 0 Says:
    February 19th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Patrick Starr said: That’ll be the blood bank and the sperm bank

    Neither are any use to anyone who has Hep-C and has a low sperm count due to excessive cannabis use Patrick – um, no, I’m not talking about myself either.

    Shit, can’t make a deposit anywhere!..”

    very ‘green’ of him..

    ..eh..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  3. Get a grip Phil – if you can put down the doobie for long enough to find one!

    What on earth, apart from paranoia, would make you think I was directing that comment at you? It was meant to be a witty retort to Patrick Starr’s comment re the blood bank and the sperm bank being the only two banks remaining at end of year.

    He probably should have mentioned the food bank too, becasue I suspect demand on that will also increase.

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  4. Sue’s comments are utterly indefensible, just where does she get the idea it is fine for tenants to cause as much damage as they like and not have to face the costs of repairing that damage?

    Once again she rushes to the defence of the criminals.

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  5. “”Corporate landlords are likely to be represented at Tribunal hearings by a tenancy manager advocate who knows the legislation well and is a trained professional, while tenants with no knowledge of the law, and who often have language or literacy difficulties, have to represent themselves. ”

    Is there no tax Bradford won’t oppose?

    They don’t “have to represent themselves”. They can hire in legal advice. That costs? Well duh. So does the tenancy manager advocate.

    Here’s a thought. Look after the place! And if you accidentily don’t, get insurance.

    You know, take some …..SOME…..responsibility. And grow up.

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  6. BB, that is not what Sue Bradford is talking about. I’m sure she accepts that when tenants are intentionally or negligently responsible for damage, they should pay for it.

    The issues she is talking about arise from the court judgment in Harrison v Shields, unreported, Judge G S MacAskill, District Court, Dunedin, NP 435/00, 25 September 2002.

    That judgment placed the liability for damage on parties who had not caused the damage, or even permitted the damage to occur, solely on the basis that they were parties to the tenancy agreement.

    Once again, you have shot from the hip BB, without researching the issue. Of course people who are culpable for damage should pat for it. But those who are not should not, which is what Sue Bradford seems to be talking about here.

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  7. Again Again Again. A non-green issue. What is it with you people? Home insulation and energy efficiency, now that’s what you guys should be on about. Helping landlords to upgrade for the sake of the tenants and the nation. Not protecting cr ap tenants or cr ap landlords either. Tenants rights thats the job of the socialist party.

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  8. >>intentionally or negligently responsible for damage, they should pay for it.

    They should pay for it regardless. Someone has to.

    Oh, you want me to pay for it? What did I, the landlord, have to do with the damage? Was it my fault? Was I negligent? I can’t even step foot on the property without sufficient notice. They have a lot more control over damage than I.

    The rent doesn’t cover all eventualities, and if it did, the rent would be higher. The only people to benefit from that would be insurance companies.

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  9. Toad

    Sue said that she thought it was unfair for tenants to pay more than one weeks rent in damage repair costs, that is tacit approval for vandelisim.

    As for the case of Harrison v Shields, I assume that you think it is OK for the property owner to wear the costs even though he or she had NOTHING to do with it?.

    If you rent a property you take responsibility for the upkeep of that property, you should also have insurance.

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  10. BB and BP: Sue Bradfod’s media release stated:

    Who bears financial responsibility for damages can be a contentious issue as a group of Dunedin students found out in a case where they were all held liable for a kitchen fire accidentally started by only one of them.

    I think she has hit the nail on the head here. Tenants should be liable only for damage they ahve caused or allowed to be caused. The current law permits landlords to recover repair costs from tenants who have no responsibility for the damage.

    That is patently unfair. The law should be amended to ensure that costs of damage can be recivered only from tenants who have caused the damage or permitted it to be caused.

    BB said: Sue said that she thought it was unfair for tenants to pay more than one weeks rent in damage repair costs.

    Didn’t see that anywhere in her media release BB.

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  11. # big bro Says:
    February 19th, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    > Sue NEVER gets it right, she is unable to tell the truth for a start.

    Then why don’t you show her how it’s done, BB.

    Oh, that’s right, you don’t actually have any experience in the area of truth-telling.

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  12. kahikatea

    I am a fountain of truth, justice and the Kiwi way!

    I guess its why I would not make a good pollie, I cannot tell bare faced lies and pretend I believe them.

    Sue seems to manage it OK though.

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  13. big bro Says:
    February 19th, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    > I guess its why I would not make a good pollie, I cannot tell bare faced lies and pretend I believe them.

    I never claimed you pretended to believe them, only that you told them.

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  14. Do you really want me to list all of Sue’s lies on here?

    It would be very embarrassing for you and the party.

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  15. Toad,

    So who is going to pay? You? Sue? Someone has to.

    How silly of me. You want ME to pay, even though I had absolutely nothing to do with the destruction of my property.

    The person who signs the lease is responsible for the property, whether they cause it or not. If that situation worries them, they can get liability insurance.

    If you’re going to force me to cover that liability as well, then I’ll simply add such insurance to the rent (can’t see the insurance companies being to happy with limited risk for those who have most control at the time of loss. ie. the tenant).

    So the end result is higher rents.

    What you’re missing Toad, is that someone has to pay. And because a rental is a business, that cost will be built into the rental price.

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  16. What a backwards country New Zealand is.

    The maximum damages that the landlord should be able to claim is the security deposit not a cent more. The security deposit can be any amount the landlord likes, it could be 1 months rent, 2 months rent or 6 months rent. The security deposit should be held in an escrow account earning interest on behalf of the renter. All this should be written into the lease agreement.

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  17. Or make it a condition of the lease that the tenant carries sufficient liability insurance.

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  18. Yes BP you could put that into the lease its an agreement between the landlord and the tenant, why is the government involved, other than setting guidelines.

    I take it the greens have to look out for the irresponsible deadbeat class in NZ that are too stupid to read a lease.

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  19. BluePeter said: What you’re missing Toad, is that someone has to pay.

    Yep, the person responsible for the damage should pay. Not a tenant who had no ability to prevent the damage.

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  20. -”Yep, the person responsible for the damage should pay. Not a tenant who had no ability to prevent the damage.”

    Surely it is the tenant who signed the lease and took that responsibility.

    Once again the left appears clueless about what’s actually best for tenants. It’s like with rent control (“Rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city–except for bombing”), they are so clueless about incentives and economics they they hurt the very people they purport to be supporting.

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  21. wat, I couldn’t agree more. The person who causes the damage should be the one that pays. As Sue said, we can’t have the courts making people who did not cause the damage pay for damage. that’s just stupid. I’m glad we agree on this!

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  22. >>Yep, the person responsible for the damage should pay.

    The tenant is responsible for the property while leased.

    Just like if you’re paying off a mortgage, and your house burns down, you still owe the debt to the bank. It wasn’t your fault the house burned down (some arsonist was on the loose), but you’re still liable for the debt. You insure yourself out of this risk, unless you’re stupid, a nanny stater, or both.

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  23. Frog,

    “we can’t have the courts making people who did not cause the damage pay for damage”

    THE LANDLORD DID NOT CAUSE THE DAMAGE, yet you’re demanding the landlord pay the bill.

    What about this do you not understand?

    The tenant is responsible for the property whilst leased. It matters not that someone at their party burned the house down, they let them in, or didn’t supervise the property carefully, or failed to get insurance.

    They can chase then chase the fire-starter, just as the landlord will be chasing them.

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  24. your wasting your time BP greens aren’t responsible citizens, they are little children that require their mum the state to save them.

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  25. Indeed, Turnip

    I suspect it’s a wind-up, as surely no one could be this naive. Glad they’re not my tenants.

    Ranting aside, I carry landlord insurance, which the tenant is paying for via their rent. What the greenies here don’t realise that if any damage happens to property, I’ll be making a claim.

    And guess who the insurance company is going to come after next?

    Best read your rental agreement carefully, frog.

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  26. No worries, BP. You are doing what any responsible landlord would do, getting insurance.

    So what happened to your earlier assertion that you shouldn’t have to pay?
    “How silly of me. You want ME to pay, even though I had absolutely nothing to do with the destruction of my property.

    The person who signs the lease is responsible for the property, whether they cause it or not. If that situation worries them, they can get liability insurance. ”

    Obviously, that situation worried you, so you got insurance. But wait, your the landlord?!!

    Make up your mind just how you’re going to slag us and stop contradicting yourself…

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  27. Should purely be a matter of contract. If the landlord transfers full liability to the tenant, then so be it – the tenant takes that on board, and insures accordingly. After all if the landlord took it on board, the rent would presumably be marginally higher. It is up to tenants to read rental agreements before signing them to factor in such costs.

    Why should anyone object to that?

    as a small sidenote, I can’t miss the irony of this:

    “Imagine what this will mean for those people who have just lost their jobs and there struggling with English or people.”

    Seems Frog struggles with English too! “there”?

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  28. >>Obviously, that situation worried you, so you got insurance. But wait, your the landlord?!! Make up your mind just how you’re going to slag us and stop contradicting yourself…

    Personas ;) Why do you call yourself a Frog? You’re not really a Frog, are you? I’m playing “outraged landlord”

    I do have insurance because I’m not trusting any tenant with that much capital. But do you see my point? It has raised their rent AND they are still liable for damages, whether they cause them or not.

    Their name is on the lease, and is to them my insurance company will be coming after.

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  29. A word of advice for BP’s tenets don’t invite PhilU over as he may in one of his drug induced states damage the house.

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  30. Yet Sue & Frog appear to be saying the landlord must wear such a cost, given that some unemployed bong bubbler is unlikely to have a few hundred grand. After all, the landlord didn’t invite him over.

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  31. We said nothing of the sort BP. What we said is that it is unfair for people not involved in damaging a house to be charged for the damage.

    Stop trying to turn this thing around, you troll!

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  32. BluePeter, this is a summary of the legal proceedings that I think prompted Sue Bradford to raise her concerns about tenant liability for damage.

    Mid-year exams can be a stressful time for students at the University of Otago. When Rupert finished his exam in June 1999, he came out of the building feeling very relieved. Little did he know that when he looked to the north Dunedin skyline and saw smoke that things were about to take a turn for the worse.

    He did not know that the smoke was coming from his flat on Leith Street. He could not have known that the fire would cause $70,000 worth of damage to the house. He did not imagine that the owner’s insurer might seek to recover the costs from him, let alone that he would be before the District Court to answer the claim some three years later.

    Rupert’s flatmate Glen had decided to cook a fry-up for lunch. He was the only one in the flat at the time. He left the frying pan with bacon on the stove while he went next door for something. The pan ignited. The fire quickly spread and caused extensive damage to the flat and contents.

    Rupert, Glen and three flatmates had signed a standard form residential tenancy agreement with the owner. One flatmate had left during the year to live with his girlfriend. Another had moved in but he did not sign the lease. The owner’s insurer sued all of the tenants. Only one of the tenants was insured. He held a household contents policy which included “legal liability” cover for any accident causing loss or damage to other people’s property.

    Glen admitted he was negligent and allowed judgment to be entered against him for the amount of the claim plus interest and costs totalling over $100,000. Glen had no assets or regular income to meet the debt so the owner’s insurer continued to pursue the other flatmates, who all denied liability. The legal issues that came before the Court were:

    * can a landlord sue a tenant for careless damage to the flat and contents?
    * can, or indeed should, the other tenants be liable for the actions of another tenant: that is, are they jointly liable?
    * should the landlord’s insurer, in the name of the landlord, be able to recover the insured repair costs from the tenants?

    The judge found for the plaintiff on all points despite accepting that the other tenants were not themselves negligent or in any way involved with the fire that damaged the flat. The tenancy agreement, and the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (s40), provided that a tenant shall not intentionally or carelessly damage, or permit any other person to damage, the premises. His Honour held that this contractual and statutory obligation was owed by all of the tenants together, having regard to common law principles, the definition of “tenant” in the Residential Tenancies Act, and provisions of the Property Law Act 1952. He concluded by entering judgment against all of the defendants on the basis that each tenant was jointly liable, even when they themselves were not at fault or involved directly, for the careless and negligent actions of Glen.

    Do you really think it is just that tenants who did not cause and could not have prevented the damage should pay for it, while the tenant who did cause it gets away scot-free because s/he has no assets and little income?

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  33. So what’s needed is a ‘tenants liability insurance’ that can be taken out by either party.

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  34. >>What we said is that it is unfair for people not involved in damaging a house to be charged for the damage.

    It is fair.

    They signed the lease, ergo they are responsible for the house, irrespective of WHO caused the damage.

    They can then chase the perpetrator or they can insure against such a risk. If they don’t insure against such a risk they are being negligent and irresponsible.

    That’s what happens when you’re a grown up. Perhaps they should be teaching this in schools, as opposed to “its-all-about-me-and-my-feelings” garbage.

    >>the tenant who did cause it gets away scot-free because s/he has no assets and little income?

    The same as motor insurance. I don’t think it’s fair that some unemployed, unlicensed P-addled idiot smashed into my last car, and gets away with it scot-free. But that’s life.

    He increases my premiums, so ultimately I pay for his negligence, his upbringing, his blame-free culture, and his apologists, many of which appear to frequent this blog.

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  35. >>Stop trying to turn this thing around, you troll!

    Name calling, eh. Very mature. Shall I start calling you bad names?
    But then consistency isn’t your strong point, is it.

    The problem with the proposal is it will result in sky-high insurance premiums (if you limit the liability of the perpetrator, he’s not going to have an incentive to be all that careful is s/he), which the landlord will pass on to the tenant, which will result in higher rents across the board, which will have Sue howling again, no doubt.

    It’s sensible for tenants to take out liability insurance. It’s the cheapest way.

    Do you want cheap, or do you want expensive? Either way, the piper must be paid.

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  36. BluePeter said: If they don’t insure against such a risk they are being negligent and irresponsible.

    BP, you would insure and I would insure. But as someone who has worked with beneficiaries for much of my working life, I know that when money is tight one of the first things people do to cut costs is cancel insurance policies.

    Do you really think it’s realistic to expect the bunch of students involved in the Dunedin flat case I cited above (on, at most, student allowances of $184.17 a week, or borrowing by way of student loan to meet their living costs) to take out insurance?

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  37. I did, can’t see why they can’t.

    >>do to cut costs is cancel insurance policies

    If you shift that responsibility away from the tenant, then the landlord will include the premiums in the rent. So instead of paying $200 per week, the tenant pays $205 per week. Don’t you see? They’ll pay the cost regardless, it just gets handed to a different person.

    However, if they self insured, the total cost might be $202 per week.

    i.e. the insurance company will likely charge more for a situation where the risk is limited for the individual who would most likely be the cause , directly or indirectly, responsible.

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  38. How about insurance for tenants against the total destruction of the property by the landlord by failure to conduct basic maintenance?

    I’ve had several landlords in Wellington, some working through a property manager, who merrily keep a plumber, a building contractor, a glazier, etc, on their books, and receive the tax write-off for expenses, without actually getting the maintenance people around to fix anything that gets broken – until someone finally gets stroppy & speaks the words “Tenancy Tribunal” in the landlords hearing.

    Some landlords still won’t do maintenance when threatened, in the misguided belief that the Tribunal only exists to make sure they can charge out-going tenants for any work that needs doing to ensure the property is rentable again.

    Guttering damaged by water falling from the sky in it’s usual seasonal variation is not damage caused by tenants!
    Neither are rotting weatherboards, caused by same afore-mentioned rain, landing on timber that hasn’t been re-painted in years.

    Hot water cylinder failures, wiring that fails due to extreme old-age (some Kelburn villas, near the university, boast 70-year-old electrical systems!), and floors and doors that change shape due to piles rotting to nothing under the house, are all maintenance issues for the property owner, not the tenant, and should not be charged to tenants under any circumstances.

    Damage that occurs due to parties visiting the premises, who are not tenants, is a different situation, not one that I’ve had to deal with; and it’s more nebulous.

    Kitchen fires occur more frequently than one would imagine; in this case, the damage to the fabric of the building should be covered by the property owner’s insurance, as it does not pertain to the ‘contents’ of the flat, but the chattals and structure owned by the landlord.

    The insurance industry routinely sells ‘contents insurance’ to young people living away from home in rented accommodation, and as routinely denies claims made against such insurance. Under the assumption that young people just don’t know their rights.

    The landlord in this case is working under the same assumption, which is rife in the property management ‘profession’.

    When I was a homeowner, with a tenant in part of the property, I certainly knew which bits we owned, and which bits were her property!

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  39. Good points katie. I was astounded to discover that only about 10% of applications to the Tenancy Tribunal are made by tenants. Given the reluctance of some landlords to do essential repairs and maintenance, I would have expected a higher percentage than that.

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  40. Katie,

    The tenant is liable for none of that. Their only duty is to report it as soon as they notice it. If the landlord does nothing about it, that is the landlords problem.

    >>and as routinely denies claims made against such insurance.

    Got some documented evidence of that? I used to work in that industry when I left school, and there was no systematic refusal of claims. I did see endless jumped up claims, however.

    Incidentally – word of advice – if you’re ever having problems with an insurance company, mention the term “Fair Go”. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the result ;)

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  41. Bradford sites one case where the lack of insurance got the tennants in trouble.

    She overlooks that there (about) 45,000 cases taken to the tenancy tribunal each year and 90% of these are for unpaid rent. We have just one case here in hamilton of a couple who owe about $30,000 – yes thats right – $30,000 in unpaid rent – to several landlords. They used bogus references and all sorts of tricks. Theyve been to the tribunal and have been taken to court. They have no money and have only just been removed from their latest house – where guess what – they havent paid either.

    Sorry sue – youve got to come to the real world.

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  42. I like how in the story Toad cites one of the students had insurance, I am sure they didn’t have to pay.

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  43. mikke said: She overlooks that there (about) 45,000 cases taken to the tenancy tribunal each year and 90% of these are for unpaid rent.

    So tenants are almost always bludging scumbags and landlords are almost always fairminded citizens ripped off by their tenants, eh mikke.

    I think that’s somewhat of a generalisation, and not substantiated by the evidence. Around one third of New Zealnders rent, but the number of Tenancy Tribunal applications each year is less than 50,000.

    And your comment doesn’t address the issue Sue Bradford is raising, which is why should tenants be held liable for damage they have not caused and had no ability to prevent. She didn’t cite that one case in her media release btw, I did here – to highlight how unfair the current law can be in practice and why Sue has a valid argument. I cited it as an example, not because it is the only case where this sort of thing has happened.

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  44. >>which is why should tenants be held liable for damage they have not caused

    They signed the lease, Frog. They have the right of occupation, and the responsibilities that go with that.

    Who pays the bank if a homeowner suffers arson and is uninsured? The homeowner.

    That’s why we have insurance.

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  45. BluePeter said: Who pays the bank if a homeowner suffers arson and is uninsured? The homeowner.

    Well, I would say that property rights equate to property responsibilities. If someone damages a landlord’s property, then that person should be liable for the cost of repairing the damage.

    That would be the common law position – why should the Residential Tenancies Act and the Property Law Act pass the responsibility for compensating the owner for damage to someone who is not responsible for the damage, while the person responsible walks away scot-free?

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  46. what are you talking about Toad???

    The Lease grants the RIGHT to live in the property and the RESPONSIBILITY of safe guarding the property. If you deny that responsibility then the landlord should have the right to be in the premises 24 hours 7 days a week in order to safe gaurd the property.

    Why do left wing socialists like Toad always want the RIGHTS but never want the RESPONSIBILITY.

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  47. Turnip: if, say, you were renting and some airhead with whom you had a sexual relationship with that turned to crap arrived and, unnown to you, set fire to the place, do you think your insurance should have to pay, or should the owner of the property pursue the perpetrator?

    Property rights also involve property responsibilities, and the law should not give a landlord free reign to recover damages from people who are not directly responsible for the damage.

    Otherwise you get a whole chain of litigation with each defendant then having to bring legal action against the next one on the chain. That is what happens in the US legal system, and it is something I detest, because of the costs to both the State and the Parties involved – and, yes, I do (occasionally) watch Judge Joe Brown!

    I think our statutory law should shortcut this – the damaged party should be entitled to recover damages, but the legal action to do so should be required to be against the person directly responsible for the damages – not some intermediary party.

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  48. >>Why do left wing socialists like Toad always want the RIGHTS but never want the RESPONSIBILITY.

    Life is easier if you have no responsibility. It’s a child- like state.

    >>Property rights also involve property responsibilities, and the law should not give a landlord free reign to recover damages from people who are not directly responsible for the damage.

    In Sues example, the landlord made a claim against his insurance company for the loss.

    The insurance company then came after the perpetrators. This is how law works across all fields, business included. Creditors come after the guy with the money.

    Should you revise partnership law as well? See how you get on if you have a rogue partner in your business. It won’t be your fault he did those dodgy deals on the quiet, and had a gambling problem, but the creditors don’t care. Your name is on the piece of paper.

    Best cover your a**

    >>but the legal action to do so should be required to be against the person directly responsible for the damages

    In a perfect world, yes. But your insurance premiums would go through the roof, because you’re making a person less liable for actions over which they have a level of control. The landlord has a lot less direct control over such a situation.

    I can just imagine it now – throw a party on the last day of tenancy. Oh, we’re not responsible for all that damage, Mr Landlord, some gate-crashers did it. Who were they? No idea, Mr Landlord. Bye….

    Toad, you appear to be living in some idealized fantasy world. Adults have increasing levels of responsibility as they grow up, and must learn to accept it and deal with it, or face the consequences.

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  49. it’s interesting to read and to compare nz landlord/tenant regulations with the uk ones! here the recent regulations swung too much into the tenants favour forgetting that they too could at times be responsible for the breach of tenancy agreement and should not be allowed to get away with this.

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  50. Be interesting to know how many of the tenancy tribunal referals were from the State Housing Corporation.

    The place where all bad tenants eventually end up as the last resort for accomodation.

    And are the state houses privately insured or are repairs just covered by the tax payer. Are repair cost in state houses ever reclaimed if caused by the tenant?

    Best way to get rid of a wilfully property damaging tenant is to have the damaged house declared unsanitary. Evict them on that basis, repair the house and get decent tenants in.

    Best thing for landlords to do is visit the property frequently to repair minor damage (or mow the lawns – cost added into the rent). That way you know what is gong on, the teneats know you will see damage and be less inclinded to dmamage the property.

    I have no faith in the property management companies to look after any rental unit of mine.

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