Landlords may be the owners of the properties that they rent out, but this does not mean that they can enter a rented property whenever they like. At the same time, it is important that they are able to access their rented property when it is necessary to do so.

How does the law balance this?

The Residential Tenancies Act provides tenants with the right to “quiet enjoyment” of their rental property without interruption by their landlord or property manager.  Quiet enjoyment means being able to enjoy reasonable peace, comfort, and privacy, and allowing others to enjoy the same.

When a landlord interferes with that quiet enjoyment, or allows it to be interfered with, that may amount to harassment which is considered an unlawful act and is punishable by a fine. 

The law is strict about when a landlord can enter a tenanted property. Generally, they may enter:

  • At any time if the tenant gives permission;
  • When they wish to inspect the rental, or conduct a methamphetamine test, between 8am and 7pm, having given at least 48 hours’ notice;
  • To take steps to comply with health and safety standards (for example, installing smoke alarms) between 8am and 7am, having given at least 24 hours’ notice;
  • When there is an emergency; and
  • To show people through the property at a reasonable time with the prior consent of the tenants. This includes prospective tenants and purchasers, valuers, real estate agents, experts, and inspectors.

No notice period is required for this, but the landlord does require the consent of the tenant.  The tenant cannot unreasonably withhold their consent, but they can impose conditions (for example specifying that viewings happen at certain times or on specific days).  In the context of a house sale, tenants are also entitled to request a reasonable rent reduction for permitting open homes (although the landlord may refuse to grant that). 

These rules of entry generally do not apply to the land around the rental house, only the home itself. This means that landlords do not need to give notice to come onto the land, and so they can do things like mow the lawns or carry out outdoor repairs.

Usually this will apply where the landlord has agreed to do lawn mowing or garden maintenance on a regular basis. 

However, depending on the circumstances, these activities could still amount to an interference with a tenant’s peace, comfort, or privacy.  

A recent example

The Tenancy Tribunal handles claims from tenants that their landlord has breached these rules, and vice versa.

The Tenancy Tribunal recently held that a landlord who lived next door to his tenants, and was entering their rental property uninvited several times a week, had been interfering with his tenants’ peace and privacy to the point of harassment.

The Tribunal pointed to a number of actions which resulted in this outcome:

  • The landlord once knocked on the window close to midnight to discuss their tenancy agreement, and the tenant’s children had seen him walking around outside in the early hours of the morning;
  • The landlord had, without permission, used the home’s outdoor water tap several times, and had also turned off the water supply for hours to install equipment; and
  • The landlord allowed someone to park their trailer on the property without consulting the tenant.

The tenant explained that she and her children were now anxious in their own home.

The Tribunal said that while entering the land around the house was not unlawful, the landlord’s conduct was overly invasive and amounted to a pattern of behaviour directed at the tenants. They awarded $1,000 as compensation for the interferences with the tenants’ quiet enjoyment.

What do landlords and tenants need to know?

Landlords cannot casually arrive at their tenanted rental property without notice except in very limited circumstances, usually in the case of a legitimate emergency. Doing so may amount to harassment, which is taken very seriously by the Tenancy Tribunal. The decision referred to above is a good example to show where the bar is set for breaches of tenants’ peace and privacy that amount to harassment.

A landlord’s failure to understand and adhere to the law regarding rental property access may result in an expensive, public, Tribunal decision. If you are a landlord or a tenant and have any concerns about access rights relating to a rental property, speak with a professional experienced in this area who can give you advice tailored to your situation.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-priced Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

 


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