It’s all great until it’s not great – checking tenants, landlords and understanding the process.

 A moment of weakness…

In September 2016, I had a moment of weakness, having spent lots of money doing up a property up, I offered the place to a tenant with her 2 young children conditional on a reference from her previous landlord.

The “previous landlord” turned out to be her mother (by another name…) and in turn, she had been evicted twice before my request for eviction – but I didn’t find this out until I had been through the whole, very painful process of eviction!

Let me summarise the next 4 months for you.

Error 1 > Moment of weakness

Following the awesome “reference”, I allowed the tenant and her 2 children to move in early and agreed she would pay bond (when she got it from her previous landlord) and the 2 weeks rent in advance on the day she moved in.

Nearly 5 weeks later. No rent, no bond.

Different excuses – lies – every couple of days about internet connection, putting money into wrong bank account number, entering the amount wrong (when she did finally put some money in), that she had a concussion from a car accident. There was no bond from the previous landlord and there was no intention to pay on time – ever.

I did a rental inspection in week 5 (still no money at this stage) which unearthed evidence of smoking (ashtrays with ash), pets (yes there was a cat), an additional tenant among other things.

Error 2 > Not following process – possibly the most important error!

At the inspection, I presented 2 copies of a letter outlining the chronology of events, the overdue payments and when they had been due, the detail of the statements (lies) made and a timeline to rectify or I would commence eviction action. She signed this document – at the same time promising to rectify the situation and crying whilst she told me she was a good person and had had some hard times (which further suggested the previous excuses/statements/reasons had all been lies). I firmly advised her that I have sympathy for anyone who has had some hard times – particularly when they are a parent – but that I had to pay the bills and she had made commitments and I had acted in good faith and been more than fair up until now but that it needed to stop.

Before getting home, she had emailed me accusing me of harassing her over the past few weeks and that I couldn’t evict her without applying and go through the tenancy services process.

It was at this point that I realised I was dealing with a professional. She seemed to know the process and the ways of delaying and prolonging any process. She continued to tell me she knew her rights. The problem was, I didn’t know hers or mine. I’d never had to read the residential tenancy act or deal with a bad tenant.

However, it was clear I had to learn pretty fast so I ceased all communication other than the minimum required of a Landlord in keeping with the RTA and immediately called Tenancy Services and told them the full situation.

I was advised that I couldn’t evict her without going through the correct process so I immediately issued a notice on the correct letterhead providing the correct notice due to the breach. That resulted in pleas, by the tenant, not to evict her. Promises again that things would change.

Nothing changed though – a small amount would be paid and then nothing again for weeks.

In the end, the issuance of a Tenancy Services Notice of breach is what saved me. I should have done this from the start.

Fortunately, the adjudicator could see I was genuine when I turned up in court with 3 bound copies of a 60-page submission of evidence in contrast to the tenants 3 pages – all focussed on my technical breach of the RTA process for eviction!

The court ruled that, had I followed their template instead of documenting it in my own format, they would have evicted her immediately on the evidence I had provided.

The judgement was a summary eviction – based on the condition that, if the tenant paid the overdue monies within 24 hours and then paid their fortnightly in-advance payments no more than 48 hours late, she would not be evicted but that if either of these conditions were breached, she could be evicted upon a payment of $50 by me to enact that eviction order.

Anyway, she didn’t pay after the 1st week and was evicted.

Between the eviction notice and being evicted, I had personal threats from her and her father – enough so that I lodged a Police complaint given she had advised that there would be “some people” in touch with me….
It’s been just over a year since this all ended but it makes my blood boil just thinking about it.

I haven’t even mentioned the Rottweilers, the parties, the other pets she denied were even hers (even though they were posted on facebook)…..oh and the page that she replaced in her version of the contract she signed and then scanned back (that I didn’t notice until I was gathering evidence for the court case) and other things…

I don’t want anyone else to experience the stress we did as a result of my laziness and lack of understanding – so, here are a few tips that might help you avoid repeating our mistakes and having a bad tenant.

What did I learn – tips from me to avoid it getting messy with tenants:

1. Check tenants and previous tenancy tribunal cases that the tenant has been involved in – sites are:

– Previous Tenancy Tribunal Cases https://forms.justice.govt.nz/search/TT/
– www.namecheck.co.nz or
– www.tinz.net.nz.

They are all worth their weight in gold….

2. Don’t get lazy. I did. It ends up biting you in the bum.

3. Don’t get greedy. We wanted top dollar in rent – this resulted in a lower number of enquiries and less people to choose from.

4. Be familiar with the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). It’s great bedtime reading if you need to get to sleep…….(but it will pay dividends to understand it). View it here.

And if you do end up in a dispute, remember this:

5. Tenancy Services are there to take the side of the tenant unless you can clearly prove you have followed their process and provided EVERY opportunity for the tenant to rectify their wrongs – there are no shortcuts.

6. Follow the process, follow the process – ensure you follow the tenancy services templates and guidance. Don’t deviate. Ask them if you are not sure.

7. Go to court prepared. Show you are professional, courteous, fair but that you maintain records and don’t deal in emotion but instead can back up your case with facts.

8. Be Prepared – I said it before, but I say it again. Gather all the evidence you have but ensure you aren’t hiding anything or can’t back up what you present.

#pauldowknowhow