Rare Tenancy Tribunal finding

A Queenstown tenant’s successfully challenged a rent increase in the Tenancy Tribunal — forcing their landlord to lower their demand by $200 a week — but such challenges remain a rarity in the resort.

The tribunal decision was one of only four last year dealing with ‘market rent’ applications for Queenstown rentals.

To get such an order, tenants must prove their landlord is asking for substantially more rent than for comparable properties in similar areas.

In the past three years, there have been only 12 such applications by tenants in the resort, figures obtained by Mountain Scene under the Official Information Act (OIA) show.

In the most recent decision, released in November, the Queenstown Hill tenant went to the tribunal after their Whangārei-based landlord —through a property management company — gave notice their rent would rise from $950 to $1550 a week — a 63% hike.

The tenant claimed the owner’s intention was to ‘‘get us to move out so they can turn it into an Airbnb’’.

After an initial hearing in late 2022, the tribunal ordered the rent be reduced to $1200, but the landlord appealed in the district court.

In his August decision, Judge Chris Tuohy quashed the tribunal’s order and ordered a rehearing before a different adjudicator, saying the decisions had to be based on evidence.

Following the rehearing, in October, adjudicator Jack Tam said in his decision the onus was on tenants to provide the tribunal evidence showing the market rent for their rental.

In their evidence, the tenant had said they’d called at least eight real estate companies asking to pay for a market rent evaluation for the property, but they’d all refused, Tam said.

Claiming the companies ‘‘all know each other’’ and worked together for the benefit of landlords, the tenant had paid a registered valuer $747.50 for a rental appraisal, who’d assessed the market rent at $1200.

After also considering the data in an appraisal by the landlord’s property manager — assessing the property’s market rent at $1400 — Tam made an order reducing the asking rent to $1350.

He declined the tenant’s application for the landlord to pay $2280 in costs — for the registered valuer’s report and wages foregone by taking six days off work to work on the claim and attend the hearings — because the Residential Tenancies Act did not provide for such payments, Tam said.

The business ministry, which provided the OIA data, was not able to say how many of the 11 other market rent applications for Queenstown
properties in the past three years resulted in a rent reduction order.

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