• Patrick Rankin

The one thing to remember when dealing with a rude tenant!

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

During my latest tenancy tribunal hearing I learnt that Tenants can say anything they like to landlords without breaching the Residential Tenancy Act. I have always followed the rule of “Taking The High Road” when dealing with tenants, as I am after all, a professional property manager. So it was never an issue for me to act professionally during conflict with tenants. In fact, I would say that this was one of my main super powers. But, it was interesting to have this confirmed at a Tenancy Tribunal hearing that a landlord must remain polite and not retaliate to receiving verbal abuse from a tenant. The tenant however, is allowed to say anything they feel like.

In this case, I had taken over a management after a breakdown between the tenant and the landlord. By the time I was involved, there had been some nasty exchanges between the two over text and email. The text messages and emails became the subject of the hearing, and swayed the outcome of the hearing in the favour of the tenant.

The adjudicator highlighted a few words used by the landlord in an email to the tenant, and noted that by using those words, he found that the landlord has interfered with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the tenant in her use of the premises. While section 38(2) Residential Tenancies Act 1986 provides that a landlord must not interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the tenant in their use of the premises, there is no corresponding section which prohibits a tenant from interfering with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the landlord!

The adjudicator awarded general damages of $300.00 in favour of the tenant for the stress, anxiety, hurt and injury to feelings suffered as a result. The adjudicator then added that he did not consider however that the breach of 38(2) RTA in this instance amounted to harassment. The landlord’s impugned words did not amount to harassment within the context of section 38(3) and Schedule 1A RTA. Consequently the claim for exemplary damages arising from harassment fails.

This was the result of a tribunal hearing I had in early October 2020. I thought the adjudicator did an excellent job. He made it clear that even if the tenant has made unreasonable requests of the landlord, the appropriate response by the landlord is to address those requests with a firm but polite “no”. In instances where there are major disagreements, the landlord can escalate a claim with the Tenancy Tribunal with a view of seeking a declaration as to whether the landlord is or is not liable to accede to the tenant’s requests.

This is another example of why landlords should find themselves a good property manager, and leave these matters to a trained professional who can remain impartial. The small weekly fee charged by a property manager is less than a hours labour for the landlord. Compared to the hours of uncertainty, stress and anxiety felt by the landlord during the conflict, and over the weeks leading up to the hearing cost the landlord a lot more in general health, wellbeing, mindfulness and productivity.

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