Response to Property Management Services in NZ

As we have found out during our journey, there are no governing bodies which oversee a ‘Property Managements’ actions in this country. Which means there are no avenues to go down to lay an official complaint re rental properties. And that does not just apply to a renter, but also the ‘owners’ of those rental properties with a Property Management Service. This doesn’t apply to Licensed Realtors who deal with selling properties, who also have a rental section within them, as a formal complaint can be laid with the business.

I have always taken care of my rented homes, like they are my own. I have never, ever defaulted on rent payments or failed to inform the landlord of faults or wear and tear situations. When I leave a house I’ve been renting I leave it in better condition than I found it. When I am looking for and applying for a home to rent I provide all necessary documents, references and monies and am always open to being asked questions.

I expect the same courtesy from those I rent from.

From a long time, renter’s perspective, I understand that there are some unsavory tenants and I do believe that there should be measures in place to filter out those who are not going to take care of a property or pay their rent.

I also think however, after my recent experiences with what was supposed to be our ‘recovery’ move, and the Property Management Service that we had the displeasure of dealing with; that there should be a system whereby potential tenants are able to ‘vet’ a Property Management or landlord before they rent from them.

We started viewing properties around the Horowhenua beach districts in early 2013 and had viewed multiple properties by early 2014.

Early 2014 we found what appeared to be a suitable property to rent, through Rentables Property Management Ltd, Levin. We moved in March of 2014.

Our first ‘red flag’ presented itself a few days before we were due to move. We had paid our deposit and went to sign the papers and bond forms. We had also agreed to clean the property inside, and be reimbursed for doing so. We made it clear that we wouldn’t be officially moving in for another week as that is when our current tenancy expired. Rent payments would start the week after, as we had paid a week in advance. The tenancy agreement was signed by one party and what appeared to be a receipt was included in the document. It appeared that the monies we had paid them were paid to the Bond, meaning the refund of the current bond would go to them to pay for rent in advance and letting fee.

Upon entering the property that day, to clean, it was noticed that the water was running a rusty-brown color. We rang the Property Management and let them know, stating that as we hadn’t been told of this, and didn’t know, we were not prepared to move in until it was fixed, or alternately, withdraw our application. They stated that we could have free rent until it was resolved. This was a verbal agreement not a written one. So we moved.

We also moved with the understanding that the property would be tidied up outside and rubbish dumped and all cosmetic flaws would be remedied within the first month. It wasn’t cleaned when we came to move.

Cutting an already long story short; we spent close to $500 to clean up the property. Fix cosmetic flaws/damages and dump rubbish. We were never reimbursed for this even though we had sent emails to say what we had cleaned and a running tally of the hours.

After only a few months of being there, we were given a 90-day eviction notice after informing the Property Management on several occasions that the water tank was leaking and had not been fixed properly; the roofs in all buildings were leaking causing further damage to walls and wiring, and a retaining wall was giving way.

We also had a longstanding ‘disagreement’ with the amount of bond money lodged. When I tried to remedy this on numerous occasions we were told that we owed rent money. The ‘free rent’ verbal agreement and the ‘receipt’ in the tenancy agreement had come back to bite us on the ass. We paid what we didn’t really owe, in the hopes that this would settle the situation.

Eventually we took the Property Management to the Tenancy Tribunal for failing to lodge the bond in its entirety, and being evicted in retaliation to requesting repairs. We won with regards to the bond and eviction with the eviction being revoked. It was noted at the hearing that it was illegal to re-rent a property that was technically uninhabitable, if the owners/Property Management were not willing to fix it. It was also illegal to give notice to tenants who were doing what was required of them by law – to report faults.

What we didn’t notice at the time of the hearing, was that the Property Management Service, had changed our ‘move in’ date as mentioned in a ‘minutes of meeting’, which I didn’t attend and my partner didn’t realize was a ‘meeting’. This came back to bite us on the ass as well, when we finally moved from the property. Technically however, the Property Management lied in the Tribunal, but because we didn’t notice it till later, all the proof we had, made no difference.

About a month after our victory of sorts, we were then given a 42-day notice as the owners had then decided to sell.

As we looked for a new property to rent we were shown some filthy and severely damaged homes, to be rented out at $250 plus per week. None of them looked like they were presented on-line.

We finally found a modest, inexpensive home, through Property Brokers Foxton. We were deeply grateful for the honesty and professionalism that was shown to us by them. It went some way to restoring our faith in people!

We prepared to move and had the first house immaculately clean and tidy due for inspection. We were then told that the Property Management Service wouldn’t release our bond because we owed rent. We asked why we hadn’t been informed of this prior to the inspection and were told to check our dates.

We did and found the lie that had been presented to the Tribunal. But we couldn’t do anything about it as the dates were noted on that official/legal document. We ended up having to pay nearly $200 in ‘arrears’.

We decided to let it go after we tried to lay a complaint with Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment re this Property Management service. It was then that we were told about the no governing body situation, and that there was no place to lay a formal complaint. I stated that this was ludicrous as in you could lay an official complaint about virtually anything from a bank to rude customer service. Apparently the situation was ‘being looked into’, but as it stood at the end of 2015, legislation remained the same regarding Property Management Services.

My concerns have recently been re-raised after we had a situation with an older family member being declined an application by a Property Management in this area. Apparently the ‘owner’ didn’t want to ‘clean up’ the property as was requested by the applicant. Instead ‘they’ chose to roll with another applicant who was happy to have the property, as is, where is, so to speak.

My concern, after experiencing trying to rent a property in this area, basically comes down to these points:

  1. If a ‘owner’ pays a rather hefty fee for a Property Management Service to maintain their property, select and filter the right tenant, do house inspections quarterly; how is any property left in a mess or damaged? We met the ‘selling owner’ of our previous house when they came to pick up their property. They were aghast at the ‘decline’ of the house, realizing that this had been a long-term steady decline. If I was that owner, I would’ve been wondering where and what my annual fee had exactly been spent on, because it was surely not maintenance, repairs or general up keep! And then on top of the owner’s annual fee, the tenant pays a rather hefty bond to get into that property. Why are we being asked, or left with an obligation to tidy or clean up a house and its premises if we want to rent it?
  2. It would appear that while renting in the city requires references, monies and an inclination to stay long-term or sign a short-term lease; there is no such courtesy here. Yes, an owner is well within their rights to sell their properties when they see fit; but if they know that their properties are possibly not suitable for habitation, why are they renting them out in the first place?
  3. It would be good to have a ‘list’ of reputable and undesirable Property Management Services, nationwide, so renters can ‘vet’ their services before choosing one. As new comers to an area, we relied heavily on a Property Service that knew the area. We didn’t know anyone to ask about suitable property services and would have appreciated some kind of filtering system to roll with a good one.

All of this caused enormous stress on the both of us and while we had to deal with it; it did make me wonder, if we had have been elderly or our disabilities had not been manageable; what would this type of stress have done to us and what would our options have been?


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