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The Landlord's Guide to Managing Unexpected Issues Before a Tenancy Begins

21 December 2022

A landlord is responsible for ensuring that their rental property is in good condition and ready for their tenants to move in on the agreed-upon start date. However, unforeseen problems, such as a major plumbing issue, can cause delays or disrupt your tenants' plans. In this article, we will discuss what happens to the tenancy in the case of a major unforeseen issue before the start date and provide tips for landlords on handling this situation.

A major unforeseen issue is a type of problem that requires immediate attention and/or repair. Examples of major maintenance issues include burst pipes, sewer blockages, and significant water damage. These issues can be costly to repair, cause health and safety concerns and also cause disruptions for your tenants.

What are the landlord's legal responsibilities? What happens to the agreement?

It is the landlord's responsibility to address any major maintenance issues and make necessary repairs before the start of the tenancy. Landlords should also be proactive in identifying and fixing any potential maintenance issues before they become major problems.

If a problem arises before the start of the tenancy, it can have an impact on the terms of the tenancy agreement. Depending on the severity of the issue, the landlord may need to make repairs or renovations to the rental property, which can be costly but also take time.

If the property is still habitable, but part of the property is damaged and can't be used, the landlord may need to negotiate with the tenant to adjust the rent amount to address the inconvenience.

Any full or partial rent lost will probably still save you time and money should you re-advertise and find a new tenant to replace the one you've secured.

If the property requires urgent repairs and it's impossible for the tenant to move in, negotiation and self-resolution are the recommended course of action. The landlord is not responsible for finding the tenant alternative accommodation. But they can help store tenants' possessions onsite or recommend another property available as an alternative or short-term. They can also suggest to cost share a cheap storage place for the tenants' goods.

Both parties need to communicate openly and reach a mutually beneficial agreement that takes into account any additional expenses or delays.

If you can't reach an agreement, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal.

What options are available for tenants?

If a major damage or maintenance issue arises before the start of the tenancy, the tenant may have a few options available to them. The first option is to request a delay in the start date of the tenancy until the issue is resolved. This allows the landlord time to make necessary repairs and ensures that the rental property is safe and ready for the tenant to move in.

Make sure any changes to the tenancy start dates are well discussed, and such agreements are properly documented.

If the problem cannot be resolved in a timely manner and the tenant wishes not to proceed with the tenancy and look for a different rental property, then they should consider making an application for a Tenancy Tribunal hearing. The Adjudicator would then listen to all the facts of the case and make a decision.

If a significant problem occurs before a lease starts, landlords and tenants need to communicate openly and work together to find a solution. Clear communication and a willingness to negotiate can help both parties come to a mutually beneficial agreement that takes into account any additional expenses or delays.

The information contained in this article is exclusively for promotional purposes. It does not in any way constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as the basis for any legal action or contractual dealings. The information is not, and does not attempt to be, a comprehensive account of the relevant law in New Zealand. If you require legal advice you should seek independent legal counsel. does not accept any liability that may arise from the use of this information.

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