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Avoiding Legal Troubles: 6 Actions Landlords Must Avoid

12 July 2023

Being a landlord comes with many responsibilities, including understanding and adhering to the laws and regulations that apply to rental properties. Failing to comply with these legal obligations can result in severe consequences, including legal disputes, financial penalties, and damage to one's reputation.

In this article, we will highlight 6 things that landlords cannot do.

1. Asking for excessive amount of information upfront

We see this time and time again, landlords creating a property advert, asking tenants to complete tenancy applications or provide excessive amounts of personal information before they even view the property.

While gathering information about applicants is necessary to make informed decisions, landlords must be mindful not to ask for too much personal information too soon.

In New Zealand, tenants have the right to privacy and protection of their personal information. The Privacy Act 2020 sets out principles landlords must follow when collecting, storing, and using tenants' personal details.

Landlords should only ask for relevant and necessary information for assessing an applicant's suitability as a tenant. The type of information you can collect will vary, depending on what stage you are at in the rental process.

For example, when people enquire about the property or book to view it, the only information you should need is their names and contact details. The option of completing a full application form before they view the property is allowed, but you can't make it a requirement.

If you're advertising your property with myRent, we take care of compliance for you. We offer tenants various options to complete applications and gather the necessary permissions. We also actively educate landlords and recommend the best "next" steps to take when selecting new tenants for their rentals.

2. Discriminating against applicants

It is essential to uphold fair housing practices and avoid any form of discrimination when selecting tenants. Discrimination is not only unethical but also illegal under the Human Rights Act 1993.

The Human Rights Act 1993 prohibits discrimination in housing based on certain protected characteristics. These characteristics include:

  • colour, race, or ethnic or national origins (including nationality or citizenship),
  • sex (including pregnancy or childbirth),
  • age,
  • relationship or family status,
  • physical or mental disability or illness,
  • religious beliefs,
  • political opinion,
  • sexual orientation or gender identity,
  • employment status (being unemployed, on a benefit, or on ACC).

Landlords must not refuse to rent to someone, set different agreement terms, ask inappropriate questions during the screening process or advertise rental properties in a discriminatory manner, excluding certain groups.

To avoid trouble, landlords should apply their selection criteria consistently to all applicants and avoid making decisions based on personal preferences or biases. Although providing reasons to unsuccessful applicants is not required, landlords should maintain a professional tone and avoid any language or statements that could be perceived as discriminatory or offensive.

3. Entering without notice

Tenants have the right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of their rental unit. In general, landlords must provide at least 48 hours written notice before entering the premises, except in emergencies.

Landlords should only enter a tenant's rental unit for valid reasons, such as:

  • Conducting necessary inspections of the property.
  • Carrying out repairs, maintenance, or renovations.
  • Showing the unit to potential buyers or new tenants.
  • Addressing emergency situations that require immediate attention.

Need assistance with Property Inspections? myRent is here to help! Book a one-off professional inspection service (no strings attached!) or outsource all your property inspections.

In emergency situations that require immediate access to the rental unit to address safety or property damage issues, landlords can enter without providing prior notice. However, it is important to inform the tenant as soon as possible after the entry.

4. Locking someone out

Locking a tenant out of the property without following proper procedures is prohibited. This action can result in significant legal consequences for landlords.

If you have valid grounds to terminate the tenancy, such as non-payment of rent or breach of the tenancy agreement, it is important to follow the correct process. This typically involves providing written notice, engaging in mediation (if required), and applying to the Tenancy Tribunal to regain possession of a property if necessary.

Locking a tenant out, removing their belongings, or attempting to force them to vacate without following the proper legal procedures is illegal and can result in severe penalties. Always adhere to the law and rely on the Tenancy Tribunal to handle difficult termination matters.

5. Refusing to make repairs

As a landlord, it is your legal responsibility to maintain a safe and habitable living environment for your tenants. This includes ensuring the property is structurally sound, free from dampness and leaks and has functioning essential amenities such as plumbing, heating, and electricity.

Landlords must address repair requests from tenants in a timely manner. When notified of a repair issue, promptly assess the situation and take appropriate action. This may involve arranging repairs, hiring qualified professionals, or undertaking the repairs yourself if you have the necessary skills.

If the landlord fails to conduct timely repairs, the tenant has the right to issue a 14-day notice to remedy, seek mediation to resolve the dispute and apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a work order to compel the landlord to carry out the repairs.

Platforms like myRent can help you manage repairs with maintenance tracking software. Tenants can easily submit maintenance tickets online and upload photos of any damage, so you can start on repairs promptly without the need to visit the property. You can even share details of the problem with your tradesperson and communicate with tenants via in-app messaging to keep them informed during the process.

6. Taking retaliation action

Landlords are prohibited from retaliating against tenants who make complaints, assert their legal rights, or participate in legal proceedings related to their tenancy.

Retaliatory actions by landlords can include, but are not limited to:

  • Unreasonably raising the rent in response to a tenant's complaint,
  • Reducing services or amenities,
  • Threatening tenancy termination,
  • Engaging in behaviour that is intimidating or offensive,
  • Making excessive and unnecessary visits.

Manage your tenancies with confidence

To help you avoid tenant complaints, myRent has you covered. Our advertising, tenant screening and management products are built to ensure compliance and make the landlording experience simple.

And if you have any questions about your obligations as a landlord, our dedicated support team is here to help. To get started, create an account or sign in today.

Remember, this article is intended as a general guide and should not be considered legal advice. It is essential to consult relevant laws, regulations and seek professional advice specific to your situation.

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