I want compensation!
When things go wrong, it’s not unusual for tenants to think the law is on their side. Tenancy law is quite specific on what compensation will be awarded, and it is not as broad as many think.
To be liable, Landlords must breach their obligations
The Act will only allow a tenant to claim compensation if the landlord breached their obligations under the law or removed a service or facility during the tenancy.
The Tribunal won’t award compensation to a tenant just because the tenant suffered a loss.
If the roof leaks and damages the tenant’s sofa, fixing the leak is the owner’s responsibility. Fixing the sofa is the tenant’s responsibility. Landlords aren’t responsible for a tenant’s loss because something went wrong. A Landlord would only be responsible for the sofa damage if they didn’t get the roof fixed when they knew it needed it.
In a court case, a tenant claimed compensation for falling downstairs because the landlord didn’t fix a light. The landlord had been told about the light not working but didn’t get it fixed. If the light hadn’t been working and the tenant failed to report it, the landlord would be under no obligation.
How long a landlord has to fix something comes back to whether the repair is urgent, when would have been reasonable to get a tradesperson out there and so on. Both parties must act reasonably and without unreasonable delay.
Removal of services
Suppose a landlord removes a facility or service. In that case, the law allows the tenant to have a rent reduction in line with the loss of features.
An unresolved roof leak into a bedroom in a 3-bedroom home could reduce the rent to the equivalent of a 2-bedroom home.
A dishwasher breaking down and not replaced saw one landlord pay compensation to the tenant for an amount equivalent to the cost of a new dishwasher.
Not pain and suffering
Many tenants assume that the tenancy law works the same as American TV Court dramas and can claim pain and suffering. No, they can’t.
Suppose you store goods while repairs are ongoing. The cost of storage may be recoverable, but not the time and effort in finding and arranging storage.
Need to substantiate
Losses need proof. The Tribunal can allow some flexibility with documentation, but the costs must be out-of-pocket.
A tenant paid for a mould specialist to inspect her property and write a report. The Tribunal member appreciated the evidence in the report but would not allow the cost of obtaining the report as a claimable expense. The costs incurred in proving a case cannot be claimed by the tenant.
In Tribunal, legal costs must be paid by the respective parties. Each party must bear the costs of making a claim, the time, preparation, and appearance.
Mitigation means that each side must do what they can to reduce their loss and the loss incurred by the other side. A tenant can’t allow the damages and losses to pile up. They must do what they can to protect their goods from damage or find a cheaper alternative.
When they need to apply
The clock starts ticking when tenants know they are at a loss. Tenants must make a claim within three months from the date they first become aware of the loss. Any longer than that, and their ability to claim ceases.
Tenants can be liable to landlords.
As the saying goes, this part of the Act can cut both ways.
Suppose a tenant fails in their responsibilities and the owner incurs a loss. In that case, the owner can seek compensation from the tenant. Tenants have been charged because they didn’t report maintenance when they first became aware of the issue. Tenants that have been negligent and set fire to kitchens have had actions taken against them for the replacement costs of those kitchens.