A question from Mark:
My tenant has asked to put a cabin (at her cost) on the front lawn to give her family more space. I’m concerned about the street appeal and the damage the cabin will do to the lawn. How do I tell her no without causing more drama?
The Residential Tenancies Act allows tenants to add fixtures or make any renovation, alteration or addition to the premises according to the tenancy agreement or with the landlord’s written consent. Assuming your agreement is silent on cabins, the tenant must get your written consent before bringing the cabin onto the premises.
You cannot unreasonably withhold your consent, but you can attach reasonable conditions to your consent. You must consent if the cabin fits the minor change definition under s42B (possible but unlikely).
Related resource: Information sheet for tenants’ fixtures
Your ground(s) for withholding consent must be reasonable in the circumstances. Personal misgivings and preferences are not enough. Based on recent orders, it is unlikely that street appeal (personal preference) and lawn damage (easily reversible) would sway the Tribunal. However, if the erection of the cabin or the cabin itself requires building consent and would otherwise make you liable for council action, then that may be a reasonable ground for you to withhold consent.
In terms of putting the matter to bed without much fuss, we recommend that you have an open conversation with your tenant about your reservations, explore whether there are reasonable conditions under which you would agree to her request and find other ways meet her need for more space which is what likely motivated her in the first place.