Tenancy Tribunals & Tribulations #1: A stitch in time could save $5000

Welcome to our first edition of Tenancy Tribunals & Tribulations where we'll be exploring some of the more bizarre property management stories from across the country.

Jason Nolan
May 31, 2018

Welcome to our new fortnightly segment, Tenancy Tribunals & Tribulations, where we'll be exploring some of the more bizarre property management stories from across the country, ranging from the silly to the stupendous and everything in between. All stories covered ended up being resolved by our trusty judge, jury and executioner, The Tenancy Tribunal, and in hindsight, could have been prevented.

Our first story dates back a few years on the southern coast of the South Island, where single mother of two had just relocated into what she had hoped would be a new safe and sound family home to raise her children in. The first couple of weeks flew by without a hitch, with everything in order and not a maintenance issue in sight but as the family increasingly settled into the area, they noticed a tiny leak from the hot water cylinder that would eventually prove to be quite the problem...

The mother immediately contacted the property manager and on the same day, the property manager had organised for a plumber to assess the situation. The plumber came round, assessed the situation and determined that a replacement cylinder was necessary. The mother then spoke to the property manager on the phone regarding the plumber's assessment and all parties had seemingly come to an agreement about how best to proceed. So far, so good.

However what happened, was nothing. Nothing at all.

The first couple of days went by with the silent assumption that the appropriate action was pending but soon after, the mother persistently sought to contact her property manager by email and phone, but to no avail. A week trudged on by and the tiny leak had now turned into a sizeable hole, making the hot water cylinder completely void. The poor woman was having to heat water by kettle and stove to shower her children and ultimately she decided she was best off driving to her Uncle's place, some 30 km away.

Fourteen days and fourteen 60km round trips later and still nothing had changed. By this point, even the plumber had made multiple attempts to reach out to the respective property manager but was also getting the stiff silent treatment. After much exhaustion, the mother made an application to The Tenancy Tribunal, and the consequences of such inaction were severe...

The Tribunal ordered that 3/4 of the rent had to be refunded from the first day the tiny leak had been made apparent to the property management company and on top of that, over $1500 in compensation. The mother's quarterly power bill was also heavily subsidised and a brand new hot water cylinder had to be installed within seven days of the order. It turned out that the respective property manager had been fired and the company had been oblivious to his dealings with the mother.

What started out as a tiny leak ended up costing over $5000 and could have been easily avoided. Had the manager dealt with the tiny leak instantly, then the compensation would have been wholly avoided and had the property management company kept a centralised account of all communications of its employees, then coworkers would have also been made aware of the situation. A job that can cost as little as $750 ended up costing 7 times as much. Ouch.

Have any stories of your own you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you.

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Jason Nolan
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