Property investor backs tenant who won carpet-cleaning Tenancy Tribunal case

A group representing landlords is happy with rules that don't require tenants to have the carpets cleaned when they end their tenancy.

A tenant recently won a case against her property manager, who withheld her bond because cleaning hadn't been done.

Whittle Knight and Boatwood Estate Agents wanted $90 of Kelly Hannifin's bond to pay for carpet cleaning, so wouldn't release the entire $840, Stuff reported on Friday.

She moved out of her Christchurch flat in April, but this week got her entire bond back because - as the Tenancy Tribunal pointed out - she left the carpet "reasonably clean", and under the law that's all that's required.

"I'm a clean and tidy person, every three-monthly inspection has been very good or excellent," Hannifin told Stuff.

Andrew King, head of the NZ Property Investors' Federation (NZPIF), said he wouldn't want tenants to be forced to call in professional cleaners at the end of each tenancy.

"The requirement for a property to be 'reasonably' cleaned can be challenging, as different people have different impressions of what is reasonable," he told Newshub, noting the NZPIF itself doesn't currently have a position on the rule.

"However it does allow for situations to be heard on a case-by-case basis. This isn't perfect, but I think it is generally a good system."

If the tenant has caused damage however, that's a different story.

"It should then be enforceable that the tenant is required to professionally clean or otherwise repair the carpet so it is back to a 'reasonable' condition."

That is presently the case. Newshub was able to find several Tenancy Tribunal cases in the past few months in which tenants had been ordered to pay for professional cleaning to be done - often alongside orders to pay up rent in arrears.

Whittle Knight and Boatwood Estate Agents boss Tania Ellis declined to comment on the Hannifin case.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Tenancy Services website includes a list of clauses property managers often try to put in their agreements which are "likely to be deemed unenforceable".

In addition to having carpets professionally cleaned, they include forcing tenants to:

  • replace worn-out stove elements, fuses and taps
  • give more than 21 days' notice to end a periodic tenancy
  • pay more than four weeks' bond
  • accept rent increases with only a week's notice
  • agree not to have visitors or parties
  • pay for fixed water charges
  • pay for smoke alarms and batteries.