A landlord’s claim that his tenant was unreasonably refusing to view his central Auckland apartment due to Covid-19 risks has been dismissed by the Leasing Court.
The landlord * put his rented apartment up for sale, but potential buyers had not been able to see it.
The Residential Leasing Law states that a landlord can enter a property to show it to prospective buyers if the tenant consents, but they can reasonably deny consent.
The landlord went to court claiming that his tenant was unreasonable.
In emails provided to RNZ by the landlord, the tenant * said that he did not consent to the visits due to risks related to Covid-19 and that the Auckland region is at alert level 3.
A court order, obtained by RNZ and not yet made public, showed that the judge found that “the tenant had reasonable grounds to deny consent.”
“Acting reasonably, many people would refuse to consent to this situation to unknown parties,” they said.
It was also pointed out at the mid-October hearing that the lease had to end within six weeks.
Other documents obtained by RNZ show that the adjudicator dismissed a new hearing because “they were not satisfied” that “there was a substantial error or a judicial error.”
“The owner has not established any reason for a new hearing.”
Speaking to RNZ, the owner said he did not agree with the ruling and disagreed that the adjudicator itself was considering the request for a new hearing.
Specifically, the owner declined to acknowledge the potential risk of community transmission in Auckland and claimed that the property “was not in the area, not in places of interest.”
“They poke us, so why the hell are they poking us all?”
It was the landlord and tenant who failed to agree on a set of terms for the visitation and the termination of the lease that prompted the landlord to go to court.
The landlord said it was unreasonable for his tenant to disagree with his terms, but he did not think it was unreasonable for his tenant to disagree with his tenant’s terms.
He claimed he was losing “thousands of dollars” and two interested parties had “lost interest” because they were unable to access the property.
Real estate attorney Joanna Pidgeon said the Covid-19 alert level 3 restrictions were a “reasonable stance” to deny visits, particularly as the government had published guidance on the subject.
He said there were other options too, like taking video tours of the house.
The landlord said he had “very detailed photos and a video” of the apartment but that “there was no way to sell anything without seeing and touching it.”
Renter’s United spokesman Ashok Jacob said it seemed “pretty obvious … that the owner was wrong.”
He said he was referring to the broader issues of property rights for landlords and tenants – “an area in which New Zealand is quite behind” – with other countries giving tenants more rights.
“There’s the idea that just because someone else’s name on the property deed is doesn’t mean it’s not your house, especially if you live there for a long time.”
Jacob said it was important to note that the Court did not set precedents, and that New Zealand laws were “vague because they are meant to be interpreted on a case-by-case basis in the Court.”
“The problem is that most people don’t go to court if they have a problem.”
* Names removed for legal reasons.