The Tenancy Tribunal – Under equipped for Far North

Opinion piece by AJ Dermer


Many Landlords and Property Managers will understand the importance of swiftly exiting a troublesome Tenant. Some Tenants may even understand and sympathise with Landlords and Property Managers here in the Far North.

The Tenancy Tribunal in the Far North is forcing some Landlords to wait a ridiculous amount of time to take care of mundane and ceremonial tasks.

I’ve got the inside scoop for you about the wait time to be heard at the Tenancy Tribunal. Suffice to say, I’m pretty confident that after reading you’ll understand just how inefficient the current system is in provincial New Zealand.

On the 17th of September 2019, I attended a Tenancy Tribunal hearing under s 56 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. This particular section of the Act allows a Landlord to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an attended hearing where a 14-day breach notice has been issued and on the 14th day the issue has not been rectified.

The Tenant appeared and told myself and the Adjudicator that the issues had been fixed, explained the pet had been removed and asked that the Tenancy not be terminated on that day. However, at the hearing I outlined to the Adjudicator that if what is being said is true, we will not seek termination today, but are still wanting possession at the end of the 90-day notice.

The termination date was noted by the Adjudicator under the heading “Reasons” in a Tenancy Tribunal order. However, as termination and possession orders cannot be granted until after a termination date or where a breach is proven and it would be unreasonable for the Tribunal to not grant termination and possession, the order isn’t legally enforceable by a bailiff.

That portion is fine, as far as we are concerned, the Adjudicator did everything right. Unfortunately, it’s the way the system and scheduling is set up that lets the Tribunal down in the Far North – not the Adjudicators.

It’s now past the termination date and the Tenant remains in possession of the property. This particular Tenant attended the hearing and was present when I explicitly stated that the 90-day termination notice would continue. She was there when the Adjudicator confirmed that it would be noted on the order and confirmed that she understood.

Imagine my surprise when I go to complete the Exit inspection and the Tenant remains in possession, imagine my surprise when our attempts at communication are ignored, text messages, phone calls, emails. In all honesty the contact phone number has probably changed again.

The process from here is that we now lodge to the Tribunal again and hope that there is room when the Adjudicator next travels up from Whangarei as he does once every week and / or fortnight.

Surprise, surprise, I lodged to the Tenancy Tribunal and stipulated that the matter is extremely urgent. I mean, who wouldn’t consider that after 90 days of notice, an attended tribunal hearing and multiple text messages, phone calls and e-mails that the matter wasn’t urgent, that a bailiff wasn’t required? Well, I can tell you who – the Tenancy Tribunal.

The matter is set down for hearing on the 27th of November 2019. Three weeks and two days from when we lodged to the Tribunal requesting an urgent hearing. Total days in the property until finally moving out or being evicted – 112 days…

The Government wants to remove no cause terminations – what will the wait time be then? When everything relating to termination has to be sent to the Tenancy Tribunal to decide, the same Tribunal who isn’t equipped to handle issues in a timely manner now in the Far North, well, I don’t think they’ll be able to cope…

I have no doubt there will only be three other hearings scheduled that same day (27 November 2019), they’ll be spaced about an hour and a half apart – Not efficient.

Hey, then again perhaps I’m wrong, and the general public’s consensus is that due to the housing crisis, Tenants can be a law unto themselves. All I can say is that we side with the law and when a Tenant fails exit on their vacate date – they’ll be heading to the Tribunal and facing exemplary damages.

I just wish things weren’t so drawn out and costly to Landlords… no wonder investors are so uncertain about the future with a Labour-led Coalition Government.