Are you a Tenant?
Do you have a phone?
Get your phone out now and take photos around your house. Take photos of the floor and the ceiling, of the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. Take photos that show how clean you keep the property and what you do to keep it warm and dry.
Of course, there are some properties where you can’t hold back the damp and the mould. Take photos of this too. Take photos of things that are broken, leaking and substandard.
If you don’t have regular property inspections ask that they be done. Many tenants fear them but inspections are an opportunity to record the things that need fixing or upgrading. Does your landlord give you a written report after an inspection? If not, ask them to provide one - or do a report yourself. The Tenancy Services website has a comprehensive inspection checklist at https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/forms-and-resources/. Fill out the form, marking areas that are of concern and send it to the landlord – keeping a copy for yourself.
Talk, Talk, Talk
If you find it hard to talk to your landlord or property manager, ask to have a meeting with a support person present or with a mediator. (Community Law caseworkers are happy to assist in these roles.) Make a list of the things you want to talk about. Try to keep emotions out of your complaint. You may think that your landlord or property manager is deliberately ignoring a problem in order to save money – and sometimes that is the case – but mostly we find that landlords want to keep their property in good condition and will work with the tenant to prevent damage.
This is especially true when it comes to dampness and mould. If you do your best to keep the house well-aired, you mostly hang your washing outside and wipe away mould regularly but you still can’t get on top of the problem, tell the landlord this. There may be a simple solution, such as moving the clothesline to a sunny position or installing an extractor fan in the kitchen. If the cost of heating the house is a major cause, the landlord might consider subsidizing your power bill on the understanding that you will run the heatpump more often to dry the house out. If there is a logfire in the house but you can’t afford the firewood, then it might be in the landlord’s best interests to buy a load of firewood so that you can keep the house in better condition.
You can’t be kicked out for complaining
Right now there is a shortage of rental properties in Marlborough. This makes tenants nervous about complaining. Yes, there are landlords who don’t take it well when you point out the shortcomings of their property. But if you have done your best to keep the house dry then you have every reason to expect your landlord to take your complaint seriously. There are penalties for the landlord who retaliates by kicking a tenant out because they have complained.
If you have need to take it further
When your best, polite efforts fail, mediation by Tenancy Services staff or an application to the Tenancy Tribunal are options you can consider. We are happy to talk with you about how to take these steps. Those photos you took will become important if you need to take more formal steps to motivate your landlord to do the right thing.
And one last photo
If you do move out of the property take a photo of the electricity meter as you go.