Landlord made to retract letter under new tenancy laws

Edinburgh Realty fell short of the standard expected by the Residential 
Edinburgh Realty fell short of the standard expected by the Residential Tenancies Act after it tried to advertise student flats too soon. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A commercial landlord has been forced to retract a letter demanding Dunedin students decide their plans for next year by the end of this month, after falling foul of new tenancy laws.

Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) residential representative Patrice Le Sueur said several students raised concerns after a letter was sent out by Edinburgh Realty asking student tenants to indicate whether they would re-sign their flats by May 2.

Sections 60 A and B of the Residential Tenancies Act, which was updated in November last year, state that tenants living under a fixed-term tenancy are required to give landlords only 28 days’ notice about their intentions before their tenancy ends.

Renters with a fixed-term tenancy could choose to continue their lease as a periodic one.

For most students on a 12-month lease, that would mean they were only legally required to inform landlords of their plans on December 3, Mr Le Sueur said.

He was not sure exactly what date Edinburgh Realty had contacted its tenants, but believed it was about two weeks before they were expected to make a decision.

The letter, which was originally reported by student radio station Radio One, said the flats would be advertised from June 7 if a new lease was not arranged.

A follow-up email sent to tenants on April 28 amended the initial statement by saying Edinburgh Realty would begin getting properties ready for advertising, but listings would only be released to the public once confirmation had been received about whether residents wanted to continue their tenancy.

Mr Le Sueur said he was pleased the company had fallen into line regarding its legal obligations and from his perspective the matter had been resolved.

OUSA student support manager Sage Burke said most landlords were good but a few had room to improve.

His message for students and landlords was the same: be professional and aware of your rights and responsibilities.

"Think about what you can do to work with the other party to ensure that it’s a successful tenancy," he said.

Otago Property Investors Association president Kathryn Seque said the best outcome under the new law would be for students and landlords to work together.

Students should let landlords know when they knew their plans for next year, so landlords could rent the place to others.

It was as yet unclear how Dunedin’s rental market would be affected by the new law, she said.

There was a potential risk that first-year students coming out of halls might struggle to find flats.

"We are trying to hold them back a bit, but the rumours go around the halls of residence like they always do this time of year," she said.

Edinburgh Realty managing director Peter Wilson said the company had been "inundated" since February with inquiries for next year’s flats, as tenants were desperate to get published listings for available flats.

A publication comes out in June each year and is driven by the high demand from students.

The tenants from the advertised flats had already given notice they would vacate at the end of their current tenancy, Mr Wilson said.

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