New Zealand Property Investors' Federation

The NZPIF is the umbrella body for 17 local Property Investors' Associations throughout New Zealand.

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Putting things right - Part 2 of Fixing the Rental Crisis

There have been serious issues with the Tenancy Tribunal for many years that are having an adverse effect on both tenants and landlords.

The following are solutions to improve the Tenancy Tribunal system and provide better access to justice for both tenants and landlords.

1. Introduce new rent arrears division for Tenancy Tribunal.

Currently the vast majority of Tenancy Tribunal hearings are for rent arrears, where the evidence is factual and more often than not the tenant doesn't show up. This is taking up considerable court time and slowing the entire process.

The Tenancy Tribunal must acquire Court Time from the Ministry of Justice in order to hold Tenancy Tribunal hearings. If there are more applications than anticipated, the Tribunal cannot obtain extra court time, therefore the waiting time to get a hearing becomes longer. Every single day's delay in getting a Tribunal hearing is costing the landlord money. 

Approximately 60% of all applications to the Tenancy Tribunal are for rent arrears. Many of these cases are simple, factual and undisputable.

We believe a separate division of the Tribunal should be established to handle simple cases of rent arrears. The new division would receive applications from landlords with all the information required to prove that the rent is three weeks in arrears. A copy of this application would be sent to the tenant at the same time.

Because the application is solely for rent arrears and is factual in nature, there would be no need to have a hearing in a court room. This would free up court timer for more complicated cases or applications that are disputed.

On checking the application, if the Adjudicator decided it was not a simple case, they could refer it back to the landlord to go through the regular Tribunal system.

The rent arrears division would have adjudicators working in offices rather than court rooms. The workload would be administrative, simply checking that the information presented was correct and in order, then approving the application and advising the Landlord and Tenant.

Much of this workload could be done online, meaning Adjudicators can work in any part of the country and potentially from their own home offices.

This would be cheaper to operate, faster to reach decisions, free up court time for other cases plus be more flexible for applicants and Adjudicators. The primary benefit is to free up court time and allow hearings to be held faster. 

2. Introduce a fast-track system for urgent cases.

Not all Tenancy Tribunal applications are the same. Some are procedural and not time sensitive (i.e. damage from a tenant that has already vacated the rental) while others are extremely urgent (i.e. a tenant that has stopped paying the rent but refuses to vacate the rental).

Applications from Tenants and landlords that meet a requirement for being urgent would be put through the FastTrack system and have a hearing scheduled within five days of the application being submitted.

This proposal fits in with establishing a rent arrears division, as the first initiative would free up court time to allow fast track hearings.

3. Retain the independence of the Tenancy Tribunal by no advocates.

Some tenant advocates have lobbied for themselves to be Government paid advocates who can act for tenants in the Tenancy Tribunal.

This would be completely unfair, as it would put paid professional advocates against landlords, the majority of who rarely attend the Tribunal and are therefore inexperienced.

If Government paid tenant advocates were allowed in the Tenancy Tribunal, then it would be an unjust situation for landlords, severely reducing their access to fair justice.

4. Anonymise landlords where tenant has made an accusation against the landlord that wasn't upheld.

Under current RTA rules, if a landlord takes a Tenancy Tribunal case against a tenant that isn't upheld, then the Tenants name is not made public.

For balance and fairness, the same situation should apply to landlords where tenants take them to the Tribunal but their case isn't upheld.

5. Require all information held on a tenant be made available to a landlord who has successfully proved their case at a Tenancy Tribunal hearing.

When a landlord has had a case against their tenant upheld, it is often a hollow victory as enforcement procedures often don't take place. Where a landlord has made a successful claim against a tenant, then any information held on the tenant by any government department should be made available to ensure the tenant can be tracked and is held accountable.

6. Make it an unlawful act for tenants to stop making required rent payments after they give notice to end a tenancy.

It is extremely common for tenants to stop paying their rent as soon as they give notice to end a tenancy. This makes a mockery of having a bond as there is often nothing left at the end to cover previous rent arrears, damage or other costs.

Stopping their rent payments when giving notice to end a tenancy should be a new unlawful act to clearly show that it is not allowed and to have consequences attached if tenants knowingly do it.

7. Increase the sanctions for tenants who breach the law.

The level of exemplary damages against tenants is too low and often not applied, therefore they do not act as a deterrent against poor tenant behaviour.

The sanctions for tenants who breach the law should be increased to levels shown in the following table. Tenancy Tribunal Adjudicators should be instructed to give exemplary damages large enough to serve as a real deterrent for tenants committing unlawful acts, with the option to double damages for repeat offenders.


Unlawful act




Tenant failing, without reasonable excuse, to quit premises upon termination

$  1,500

$  3,000


Tenant's interference, etc, with means of escape from fire

$  4,000

$  6,000


Tenant using or permitting premises to be used for unlawful purpose

$  1,800

$  4,000


Tenant's harassment of other tenants or neighbours

$  3,000

$  4,000


Tenant failing to ensure number of residents does not exceed maximum allowed

$  1,000

$  2,000


Tenant failing to reinstate premises at end of tenancy following minor change

$  1,500

$  5,000


Tenant assigning tenancy without the landlord's written consent or when prohibited to do so

$     750

$  5,000


Tenant subletting or parting with possession when prohibited to do so or without the landlord's written consent

$  1,500

$  3,000


Tenant failing to allow landlord to enter upon premises in circumstances where landlord entitled to enter

$  1,500

$  2,500


Tenant abandoning premises without reasonable excuse

$  1,500

$  4,000