Tenants are being reminded it's a good idea to take photos of their new homes the day they move in.
Last week a Christchurch woman won her case at the Tenancy Tribunal against a property manager who tried to make her pay to have the carpets in her former home professionally cleaned.
Whittle Knight and Boatwood Estate Agents withheld the woman's entire bond over the $90 bill, which legally she didn't have to pay as long as the property was left in a 'reasonable' condition.
Advocacy group the Tenants Protection Association says they're seeing an increasing number of landlords and property managers trying to get tenants to pay for professional carpet cleaning at the end of tenancies, "regardless of how it has been left by the tenant, and often without actually carrying out a final inspection themselves".
"We strongly recommend tenants take photos of the property when they leave so they can dispute this cost as it is difficult to prove the cleaning didn't need to be done after it has been carried out," manager Penny Arthur told Newshub.
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"This is what is catching out a lot of tenants, and they are being ordered to pay by the Tenancy Tribunal because they don't have evidence of how they left the property."
Newshub was able to find several Tenancy Tribunal cases in the past few months where tenants had been ordered to pay for professional cleaning to be done - often alongside orders to pay up rent in arrears.
Arthur says in some cases, tenants will have to get the carpet professionally cleaned in order to reach a 'reasonable' standard.
"Tenants should also be cautious about using a Rug Doctor or similar carpet cleaner to do it themselves as this may lead to damage to the carpet if it is not done properly."
Whittle Knight and Boatwood Estate Agents declined to speak to Newshub when contacted. Arthur said property management companies were more likely to demand professional cleaning than individual landlords.
"I couldn't name names because it is across the board."
Andrew King, head of the NZ Property Investors' Federation, said he had no desire to make professional carpet cleaning a legally enforceable clause.
"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."
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.