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Alert for Landlords: TCIT Secures Groundbreaking s54 Order – What You Need to Know

A groundbreaking development in tenant protection has just unfolded, and it’s essential that every landlord takes note. The Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team (TCIT) has recently achieved a significant milestone by securing its inaugural s54 order, marking a pivotal moment in the development of tenant rights.

The TCIT intervened on behalf of a tenant who had been served a termination notice by their landlord, allegedly in retaliation for a TCIT investigation. The Tenancy Tribunal didn’t buy into the landlord’s claims and recognised the termination notice as an attempt to suppress the tenant’s rights. As a result, the Tribunal slapped the landlord with an exemplary damages order of $2,166.

Despite being a run-of-the-mill case of retaliatory termination, this order is significant. Sarina Gibbon, general manager of the Auckland Property Investors Association, says, “The TCIT is showing its teeth as a champion of RTA compliance. Landlords up and down the country should sit up and take note.”

Related Video: Retaliatory Notices

This landmark ruling carries several crucial takeaways for landlords:

TCIT’s Jurisdiction

It’s time to realise that TCIT’s role extends far beyond mere Healthy Homes audits and paperwork scrutiny. “It is easy to forget how expansive the TCIT’s jurisdiction is. It has oversight over the entire lifespan of a tenancy. Landlords need to be aware of their reach and authority.” says Gibbon.

Exercise Caution with Termination Notices

Landlords must exercise extreme caution when issuing termination notices, especially during TCIT investigations. Tenants have the right to report grievances to TCIT and provide information to support their claims. Notices issued carelessly can backfire severely, as evidenced by this case. “It is worth noting that retaliatory notice is the one unlawful act under the RTA that does not require the Tribunal to consider the issuer’s intent. The landlord doesn’t have to mean to retaliate to be penalised, she only has to have given a notice for the Tribunal to impose any sanctions.”

The Chief Executive’s Proactive Approach to Tenancy Compliance

The Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is seemingly taking on a more proactive and expansive approach to protecting tenant rights than what it had up until now. “We are used to seeing MBIE bring proceedings against landlords in cases involving repeated and gross breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) involving 5-figure penalties. To act as it has on behalf of a tenant in a straightforward retaliatory termination is to put landlords on notice that no breach is too small for the Ministry,” says Gibbon.

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